There are serious indications that all is not well when a man starts growing “breasts”, struggling with bedroom activity, drinking and smoking heavily, or seeing blood in the urine. These and a few other signs are red flags that must be urgently addressed by any man once they set in.
For instance, a cardiologist, Dr Graham Jackson, has noted that erectile dysfunction can often be an early warning sign of heart disease. He added that a man with erection problems will usually develop a heart problem within five years.
According to a report by Mailonline, physicians have identified the following “red flag” symptoms for men, while advising on the necessary actions to take:
- Erectile dysfunction
Doctors are increasingly warning that erectile dysfunction can often be an early warning sign of heart disease. “The body needs a good blood supply for an erection – and erectile problems are actually a very clear barometer of cardiovascular health,” said Raj Persad, urologist at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
“Heart disease occurs when the arteries leading to the organ become clogged with fatty deposits, meaning they are thick and furred. But this effect is seen even more quickly in the vessels carrying blood to the penis. That’s because the penile arteries are smaller than coronary ones, so become furred up faster,” Dr Persad said.
Cardiologist Graham Jackson, of the Sexual Advice Association, also noted that a man with erection problems will usually develop a heart problem within three to five years.
“A man in his 40s with erectile dysfunction has a 50-fold greater risk of having a heart attack over the next ten years,” he added.
Heart disease occurs when the arteries leading to the organ become clogged with fatty deposits, meaning they are thick and furred. But this effect is seen even more quickly in the vessels carrying blood to the penis.
‘‘There isn‘t a risk factor higher on this planet. Meanwhile, Australian research showed that even in apparently healthy men, slight or moderate erection problems could signal trouble ahead.
“The condition increased the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and arterial disease in men aged 45 and over with no previous history of heart conditions.”
Experts say men experiencing any degree of erectile dysfunction should seek medical help.
- Developing “boobs” – could be hormonal imbalance
In most cases, if a man develops what appear to be breasts, it is not breast tissue – but fatty tissue which has grown because he is overweight.
‘‘They need to lose weight and drink less beer,” said Professor Ashley Grossman, an endocrinologist from the University of Oxford. However, sometimes men do form breast tissue, and in this case the condition is known medically as gynaecomastia.
‘‘Gynecomastia translates as female breasts,” Professor Grossman said. ‘‘It usually means female breast tissue in a man. The condition is caused by an imbalance between the hormones testosterone and oestrogen”, he explained.
Oestrogen causes breast tissue to grow, but normally men usually have much higher levels of testosterone, which stops the oestrogen from triggering this. But if the balance of hormones changes, this can cause a man’s breasts to grow.
‘‘This can happen as boys go through puberty, as their hormones might be a bit imbalanced,” said Professor Grossman.
‘‘It can cause a bit of distress as the boy is usually chubby, he doesn’t want to take his top off during swimming.
‘‘It normally settles down on its own. We reassure him he‘s not turning into a girl, and to tell him to lose weight. Oestrogen drugs are available, but they do not work well,” he added.
As a last resort, there is a simple plastic surgery operation that can be done to remove the breast tissue, but after it is explained, the condition will go away on its own, most people do not opt for it.
In grown men, boobs are a sign the testicles are not working properly.
Professor Grossman explained: ‘‘The pituitary gland stimulates the testicles to produce, but if it can’t produce any more, it ends up making more oestrogen.’‘
“It can also be a sign of liver disease, he added, as when the organ becomes damaged, the balance of hormones in the body changes and can cause gynaecomastia. Men who are worried they are developing breasts should go to a doctor, who can feel them and see if they are simply fatty tissue, or breast tissue. The most useful test is to measure the hormone levels in the blood to see if they are imbalanced,” Professor Grossman concluded.
3) Needing the loo in the night – Could be prostate cancer, enlarged prostate
If you are rushing to the toilet in the night, it could be a sign of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, according to Prostate Cancer UK.
The prostate is a gland the size and shape of a walnut whose main role is to make semen, the liquid that carries sperm.
It lies underneath the bladder, and so if there is any change in the size of the gland, it can affect a man‘s urination habits as it presses on the urethra, the tube through which urine flows.
The charity warns men to look out for symptoms which include needing to go to the loo more often than usual, needing to rush to the toilet and leaking before arriving.
Having difficulty peeing; straining or taking a long time to finish urinating; or having a weak flow when urinating or feeling as though the bladder is not fully empty could also be signs.
Men with these symptoms should contact their GP, who can carry out tests to assess if they have a benign prostatic enlargement, a non-cancerous growth of the gland.
The doctor could also assess whether there is a chance they have prostate cancer, which can be detected through a blood test, a physical exam and a biopsy.
For many men with prostate cancer, treatment is not immediately necessary, unless they have an aggressive form of the disease, or the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Treatments include having surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
4) No sense of smell or a change in libido – could be problems with fertility
‘‘If a man notices a change in his libido, that could be an endocrine [hormonal] problem,’‘ said Mr Michael Dooley, a consultant gynaecologist at the Poundbury Clinic at King Edward VII’s Hospital.
It could be indicative of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, a condition where, in men, the testicles do not produce enough male hormones.
A man in his 40s with erectile dysfunction has a 50-fold greater risk of having a heart attack over the next ten years. There isn’t a risk factor higher on the planet
Dr Graham Jackson, cardiologist and chair of the Sexual Advice Association said this leads to a lack of sex drive, and fertility problems. ‘‘A lack of smell is another sign that the testicles aren’t working properly,” he added.
Lack of smell or anosmia, as it is known medically, is associated with Kallman’s syndrome, a similar genetic disorder in which the lack of male hormones leads to delayed puberty.
‘‘Nobody knows why – but lack of smell is one of the key signs,” Mr Dooley continued.
In both illnesses, the pituitary gland does not produce a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone, he said.
‘‘If your body doesn‘t make it, the testicles will not make sperm, leading to fertility problems.
‘‘If a man is infertile, you give him gonadotrophic injections.”
He advised men with either of these symptoms to go to their GP, who could refer them on to an endocrinologist or a fertility expert to investigate the problem.
5) Lump in testicle – could be testicular cancer
A lump could be a sign of testicular cancer, and is the most common cancer in men aged 20 to 35.
Men who notice a lump or abnormality in their testicles should always see their GP, doctors’ advice.
This is because treatment for testicular cancer is much more effective if the cancer is diagnosed early.
Indeed, it is the cancer with the highest survival rate.
6) Blood in the urine – Could be bladder cancer
Blood in the urine is the most common sign of bladder cancer, and is usually painless.
However half of those with the disease will die from it, figures show.
Most cases of bladder cancer appear to be caused by exposure to harmful substances, which lead to abnormal changes in the bladder’s cells over many years.
Tobacco smoke is a common cause and it‘s estimated that half of all cases of bladder cancer are caused by smoking.
Chemicals previously used in manufacturing – now banned – are also known to cause the disease.
Lower back or abdominal pain can be a sign of bladder cancer
Other symptoms to look out for include: needing to go to the loo frequently, urine infections that keep coming back, tiredness, lower back or abdominal pain and weight loss for no obvious reason.
Men with any of these symptoms should go to the doctor immediately.
Although it is likely they are due to a problem that is not cancer, such as haemorrhoids or a urinary infection, a doctor will be able to investigate.
7) Drinking heavily – could be depression
In men, depression does not always display itself in the way we might think.
Classical symptoms include tearfulness, waking up early in the morning and other sleep disturbances, and experiencing loss of pleasure.
But men are more likely to have a “front” and their depression may not manifest itself in these ways, says Dr John Chisholm, a former GP and chair of the Men’s Health Forum.
‘‘In the UK there are a lot of people who are drinking in excess of the recommended daily limits. It puts their physical health at risk but it can also be a symptom of depression.
‘‘It can precipitate behaviour that is to be avoided, for example the association of drinking with domestic violence.’‘
He pointed to a Danish study which found that men who are depressed don‘t emit the classical signals.
Instead, as well as alcohol abuse, anger management, violence, an inability to maintain relationships, or a withdrawal from established relationship can signal depression.
“This is something that professionals may not realise,” he added. “In men, depression does not always display itself in the way that we might think – and heavy drinking can be a classic warning sign.
‘‘I don’t want to criticise doctors and nurses, but not all healthcare professionals will be aware of the symptoms men display when they are depressed and suicidal,’‘ he said.
This is important, Dr Chisholm says, as men are already 20 per cent less likely to go to the doctor in the first place.
‘‘Men find personal things more difficult to talk about their feelings.
He added: ‘‘Part of masculinity, of male culture, is to grin and bear it, suppress your feelings. That’s how boys have been brought up; they are taught to put on a veneer of coping.’‘
This “bottling up” of feelings means mental health problems can be masked.
It has serious consequences, said Dr Chisholm.
Three quarters of suicides occur in men, a surprising figure given that more women are diagnosed with depression and anxiety than men.
‘‘The sort of methods men use to kill themselves are more violent and likely to succeed,” he added.
‘‘We have to break the cultural stereotypes and teach men that they should be in touch with their emotions. And if those emotions get out of control, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help.
‘‘If men are in a family setting or in a relationship with a partner or a spouse or in a network of friends, if those partners or friends are more aware of these things, they can encourage a man under stress or strain seek medical help for that.”