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Recognizing and Treating Low Testosterone

More than 13 million men have low testosterone. If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to be one of them. "Especially with type 2 diabetes, men with abdominal fat usually have significantly lower testosterone levels than other men," Campbell says.

About 70% of men who have low testosterone say they have symptoms of it, like erectile dysfunction, and 63% say their sex drive has dropped. Low testosterone can also make you depressed or tired. Yet it is often not diagnosed, partly because the symptoms are like those of other conditions.

If you have symptoms of low testosterone, simple blood tests will confirm the cause. Low testosterone is easily treated.

7 More Sexual Solutions

"You don't want to overthink sex, but if you're aware of different aspects of sex with diabetes, you can develop a process that works," Campbell says. These tips may help:

  • Don't sweat spontaneity. Don't let thoughts about sexual problems dampen your sex drive, especially after you have children and the window for intimacy shrinks. "You start checking your blood sugar and making adjustments a couple of hours ahead," Turner says. "And then you start kicking yourself: Why can't I be normal? And you lose your confidence." Remember that other people are in the same boat, says Janis Roszler, RD, a diabetes educator and co-author of Sex and Diabetes. "Every couple with kids has things they have to arrange so they can be intimate," she says. "Everyone has stuff that gets in the way of intimacy."
  • Know your body at different blood glucose levels. "I encourage men to learn how sex is for them at different blood sugar levels," Campbell says. "Then they can determine their own best levels for having sex." Some experts advise checking blood sugar levels often before sex to guard against low blood sugar. Others say a man can make his own choice, depending on things like whether he's prone to low blood sugar at night or after hard exercise. If you decide to do testing before sex, Campbell says, "Don't make it part of the sexual process."
  • Get moving. The more you exercise, the less likely you are to have erectile dysfunction.
  • Get help for depression. Emotional issues -- such as stress, depression, anxiety, and conflict with your partner -- can affect any couple's sex life and relationship. If you've been feeling depressed for 2 weeks or more, talk to your doctor. Counseling or drugs can help depression and other emotional issues.
  • Eat right: the Mediterranean diet. Some research shows that erectile dysfunction is less common in men with type 2 diabetes who follow a Mediterranean diet. Other research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can make people less likely to have metabolic syndrome -- the grouping of obesity, insulin resistance, blood pressure, and abnormal lipids that raise your chance of getting heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, and whole grains. You eat fish and poultry at least twice a week, limit red meat, and use healthy fats, like olive oil, instead of unhealthy fats, like butter. Ask your doctor if the diet is right for you.
  • Don't smoke. It not only causes cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Smoking can also help cause ED. In fact, men who smoke are about twice as likely to develop ED as those who don't smoke. So if you smoke, it's one more good reason to quit.
  • Limit alcohol. Drinking a lot can also affect ED. Alcohol curbs blood flow to the penis and can affect how much testosterone your body makes. Both these things can affect your sex drive and erections.