10 Rare Diseases That Turn People Into Superheroes
7 Rare But Real Men's Diseases
Men's health can be affected by more than prostate cancer and low testosterone. Learn about other diseases that can pose health threats.
By Kristen Stewart
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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If someone were asked what health conditions might afflict men, prostate cancer and low testosterone might come to mind. They're certainly not the only ones, however.
These seven diseases may occur less often in men, but they should be on your radar nonetheless.
Much less common than kidney stones, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, bladder stones are hard pieces of mineral buildup in the bladder that develop when urine is heavily concentrated, says S. Adam Ramin, MD, a urologist and founder of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles, California. Though bladder stones often don’t cause symptoms, having them sometimes causes lower abdominal pain, frequent and painful urination, bloody or cloudy urine, and even pain in the penis, he says.
Trouble completely emptying the bladder is the biggest risk factor for these stones and can be an issue for men with an enlarged prostate, nerve damage, inflammation, or kidney stones, Dr. Ramin says. Small stones can often pass on their own, but larger ones may need medical intervention with surgery or cystolitholapaxy, a procedure that uses ultrasonic waves or a laser to break up the stones, explains Providence Health & Services.
Similar to varicose veins that occur in the legs, a varicocele is a gathering of enlarged or varicose veins in the scrotum, Ramin says. About 15 percent of men will get a varicocele, according to the Urology Care Foundation. It can result in decreased sperm quality and quantity in some men, but not every varicocele leads to fertility problems, Ramin says.
“Most men with varicoceles do not have symptoms and do not need treatment,” he says. “There aren’t any scientifically proven risk factors associated with varicoceles, but if the condition is causing pain or is affecting a man’s ability to father a child, it can often be repaired surgically.” Surgery can seal off the affected vein and redirect blood flow into normal veins, he explains.
Male Breast Cancer
While less than one percent of breast cancer cases are in men, according to Breastcancer.org, men can develop the disease. They often discover it by feeling a lump. As with women, a diagnosis can be done with a mammogram or sonogram, says Paul Gittens, MD, an assistant professor and the director of sexual dysfunction, male fertility, and andrology at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and director and founder of the Philadelphia Center for Sexual Medicine. Men have a lifetime risk of approximately one in 1,000, according to Breastcancer.org, with most cases occurring after age 60.
Risk factors include family history, radiation exposure, high levels of estrogen, and some genetic conditions, Dr. Gittens says. The cure rate at each stage of breast cancer is similar in men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Though hematuria, or blood in the urine, can occur for a variety of reasons, the possibility is higher in people who exercise strenuously, such as long-distance runners, Ramin says. The reason isn’t entirely clear, but the causes may include the body’s balance of fluids, the breakdown of blood cells, or trauma to the bladder over many miles of the body banging on the pavement. One suggestion is to urinate a half-hour before running rather than right before so that some fluid remains in the bladder to help cushion the walls from trauma.
Regardless of the suspected reason, any man who has blood in his urine should see a medical professional to rule out more serious causes, like kidney stones and cancer, Ramin says.
Testicular cancer affects about one of 263 men, according to the American Cancer Society, and it's most likely to strike in the early thirties, although some do get it as children or teens or after age 55. It's most often found by feeling a bump, Gittens says. Treatment involves removing the testicle and possibly more surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, says Ryan Berglund, MD, an assistant professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
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“This is a true success story in treating cancer, as survival rates are greater than 95 percent using state-of-the-art treatments,” Dr. Berglund says.
When many people think of eating disorders, they envision women, but binge eating disorder in particular affects men almost as much, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. In fact, the group notes that while eating disorders in general are twice as frequent in females, 40 percent of those with binge eating disorder, or about three million people, are men.
“Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following: eating very quickly, eating beyond feeling full, eating a lot when not hungry, eating in secret to hide how much is being eaten, and feeling guilty after a binge,” says Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, executive director and chief medical officer at the Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami, Florida. She says treatment should begin with a psychological, psychiatric, and medical assessment and may include psychiatric medications, nutritional therapy, exposure therapy, mindfulness training, and family therapy.
First described in 1743, Peyronie’s disease results when a man has a calcification or plaque buildup that causes the penis to bend or curve, Gittens says. This, in turn, can lead to such conditions as shortening of the penis, erectile dysfunction, and the inability to penetrate during intercourse because of the angle. Thought to be caused by trauma to the penis coupled with a genetic disposition, Peyronie's disease affects anywhere from 1 to 23 percent of men, most commonly in their forties to sixties, according to the Urology Care Foundation. Gittens says treatment varies and can include an injected medication, oral medications, or surgery, depending on the individual.
Knowing about these diseases, rare as they are among men, is an important step toward better health.
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