MAYO CLINIC NEWS NETWORK — As men age, even those accustomed to good health may encounter symptoms that affect their quality of life and are important to mention to their physicians. Vikas Mehta, MBCHb, a physician at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London, describes several physical signs that are worth following up on.
“For men, very often the symptoms that affect their lives are things that they are not very comfortable talking to others about,” says Dr. Mehta, a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health. “Often, these conditions are treatable.”
Urological symptoms and sexual health:
The need to urinate often can signal prostate or bladder problems and/or diabetes. Painful or otherwise difficult urination should also be followed up on.
Erectile dysfunction, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, is treatable and a good reason to have a cardiac screening, Dr. Mehta says: “If there are issues with blood vessels in one part of the body it’s very likely there are issues elsewhere.”
A testicular exam to look for lumps is a good idea for men who have never had one. “We find sometimes in screening tests that men have never had anyone other than their partners look at their sexual organs, and so we pick up a lot of issues or abnormalities,” Dr. Mehta says.
“Mental health for me is a big one” for men to pay attention to, says Dr. Mehta, noting that Mayo Clinic Healthcare is located in an area known for high-stress professions such as banking and law. “Knowing when and where to get help is very important.”
Is it taking longer to recover from injuries? A decrease in capacity for exercise is often related to musculoskeletal issues such as muscle wasting and inflammatory issues.
Exercise can help relieve stress. For men accustomed to being active, not being able to run or engage in other exercise due to musculoskeletal conditions can affect mental health, Dr. Mehta says.
Screening for osteoarthritis and rheumatic diseases such as gout, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may be called for, especially if there is a family history.
If you find yourself becoming fatigued and/or out of breath when you are exercising or just walking around or you have a chronic cough, it is time to get screened, Dr. Mehta says:
“Even if it’s just, `I wake up in the morning and I cough,’ it shouldn’t be happening every day.” Respiratory conditions such as adult-onset asthma and COVID-related problems are among the possibilities.
Snoring and/or stopping breathing at times during the night can be a sign of sleep apnea and other respiratory problems. A lack of quality sleep is linked to several health problems such as higher blood pressure; increased appetite that can lead to diabetes and weight gain; anxiety; and depression.
“Snoring is a common reason for men to be kicked out of the bedroom by their partners, but the main sufferer is the person who has sleep apnea and is not getting quality sleep at night,” Dr. Mehta says.
“They may think, `You know, I can sleep anytime,’ but they don’t realize that they’re not sleeping well at night and as a result can fall asleep just like that during the day.”
Ear, nose and throat health:
Tinnitus—ringing and other noises in the ears—hearing better in one ear than the other, and ear pain are becoming more common as people work from home and use headphones, Dr. Mehta says.
Men with chronic sore throats, especially smokers, and/or those with white lesions in their mouths should be checked for throat cancers. “It’s really important to get help in a timely manner if you have any of this,” Dr. Mehta says.
Chronic congestion may mean seasonal allergies, and men with those may benefit from a seasonal shot called a hay fever injection, Dr. Mehta says.
Those with unexplained chronic congestion should be screened for nasal polyps. In some cases, a feeling that one nostril is harder to breathe out of than the other can be a symptom.
A feeling of constantly needing to clear the throat or something caught in the throat can be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
Just as with frequent urination, often feeling thirsty means it may be time for diabetes screening.
Heavy consumers of alcohol should also be screened, Dr. Mehta says.