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Diabetes Alert: How Diabetes Affects Fertility

March 27 was American Diabetes Association Alert Day, a one-day wake-up call asking Americans to take a Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.

There are nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes, which is a disorder of the metabolism. Type 2 is its most common form of diabetes. With Type 2, a person's body is insulin-resistant, meaning the body produces insulin, but does not use it effectively to move glucose from the blood and into the cells. Thus, the glucose builds up in the blood and passes out of the body in the urine, and the body loses its main source of fuel.

Prediabetes is a condition that affects 79 million Americans. With prediabetes, blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Diabetes can affect the fertility of both men and women by affecting hormones and other bodily functions in such as way as to make it difficult to conceive. Insulin is a hormone, and when a hormone is out of balance, it can cause other hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, to get out of balance.

In women, Type 2 diabetes is linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a common hormonal disorder that causes anovulation and infertility. In addition, obesity is common in women with Type 2 diabetes, and studies have found that women who are obese take longer to get pregnant and produce eggs that create embryos of lower quality.

In men, scientists have found that DNA damage in the sperm of diabetic men is higher than in the sperm of men who do not have diabetes. In addition, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to retrograde ejaculation in which the semen goes into the bladder and never reaches the woman's reproductive system. Erectile dysfunction is another diabetes complication.

Correcting insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes with medication and lifestyle changes to improve diet and lose weight can help restore fertility in men and women. Take the Diabetes Risk Test — which asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes — and talk to your doctors about the results.

For more information, read the following articles:

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