Men who have diabetes issued serious health warning after researchers uncover 'risk of complications'

Man in pain

Men more at risk of diabetes complications than women, new study finds

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 17/05/2024

- 16:09
  • Men more at risk of diabetes complications than women
  • The study is a wake-up call of the potential dangers, researchers say

Men who have diabetes are more at risk of complications from the condition than women, according to a new study.

The findings are a stark reminder that diabetes can be devastating if left untreated and more targeted interventions are needed.

The higher risk is driven by rates of obesity and a greater reluctance to adopt a healthier lifestyle or take medication, researchers suggested.

They also warned that high levels of complications in both genders with the condition should “highlight the importance of targeted complication screening and prevention strategies from diagnosis”.

Man with diabetes

Researchers found men were 51 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease


For the study, academics from the University of Sydney analysed survey responses from an ongoing Australian study of health and ageing known as 45 and Up.

The responses were linked to the medical records of 25,713 people over the age of 45, all of whom had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Some 57 percent of the sample were men.

The study looked at the development of health issues associated with diabetes including kidney problems, eye problems, nerve damage or ulcers on the legs or feet, poor circulation, and heart issues such as heart failure or stroke.

Over an average of 10 years, some 44 percent of the men included in the study had complications associated with the heart compared with 31 percent of women.

A quarter of men had problems with their legs or feet with the figure for women at 18 percent, while 35 percent of men reported kidney problems compared with 25 percent of women.

However, eye problems were more common in women, with 61 percent developing complications associated with the eye compared with 57 percent of men.

Overall, researchers found men were 51% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, 55% more likely to have issues with their kidneys, and leg or foot complications were 47 percent more likely.

Men were also at a 14 percent higher risk of diabetic retinopathy, which affects blood vessels in the retina and can cause blindness in people with diabetes.

Researchers said the findings – published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health – highlighted “differences in baseline characteristics” between men and women.

Men were more likely to be overweight, have a history of heart disease or stroke, or be previous smokers.

They added: “Men may also be less likely to adopt primary prevention strategies, such as healthy lifestyle change and medication use, and to engage in health-seeking behaviours, such as preventative health checks.”

More than 4.3 million people in the UK are living with diabetes

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More than 4.3 million people in the UK are living with diabetes, according to Diabetes UK, although the charity estimates a further 850,000 are yet to be diagnosed.

A study published in The Lancet last year claimed 1.3 billion could have the condition worldwide by 2050.

Researchers also looked at how long people had been living with diabetes and if this impacted the risk of complications.

Of the 19,922 people whose age was recorded at diagnosis, some 58% had had the condition for less than a decade, while the remainder had had it for more than 10 years.

Researchers said “despite the greater complication risk with longer disease duration, we observed a similar sex difference in risk of complications”.

They added: “Men with diabetes are at greater risk of complications, irrespective of diabetes duration.

“High rates of complications in both sexes highlight the importance of targeted complication screening and prevention strategies from diagnosis.”

Doctor Faye Riley, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: “This research underlines the serious harm diabetes can do, and that too many men and women develop avoidable diabetes complications.

“This study is one piece of a larger puzzle, with other evidence revealing a complicated picture of the different risks and inequalities men and women with diabetes face.

“A deeper understanding of sex-based differences in diabetes complications will be essential to tailor care and help more people to live well with the condition.”

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