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Taking the Right Steps

It’s well known that when it comes to men, there are a lot of places they’d rather be than inside of a doctor’s office. Unlike their female counterparts, males are more reluctant to look after their personal health and often put off medical visits, opting instead to manage symptoms or simply live with the pain. But, of course, that “manly” mentality can lead to even bigger health issues down the road.

A recent study by the Cleveland Clinic, which surveyed more than 1,100 men, found that 72% of the respondents would rather clean the house than go see their physician. But doctors are working hard to break down that barrier and make it less taboo for males to discuss their health and take better care of themselves. 

Thankfully, the tide appears to be changing somewhat thanks to the renewed focus the coronavirus has put on the country’s overall health and wellness.

While major health issues like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are easily top of mind, the scope of men’s health also includes lesser-talked about areas like vision and infertility. We spoke with leading experts in those fields to gain a better understanding of how men can meet the challenges head on. 



For the most part, eye disease and vision health issues are fairly equally distributed between men and women, and the most common problems tend to be age related combined with some sort of genetic component. But, one area where men experience more severe outcomes is with retinal vascular diseases. Common disorders are diabetic retinopathy, which affects the blood vessels in the retina, or hypertensive retinopathy, which is caused by high blood pressure. Additionally, cardiovascular health issues such as heart disease and high cholesterol can have a negative impact. 

“That whole group of medical conditions affects the blood vessels in the retina and there’s a tendency for men to show a higher incidence of those issues or increased severity of those issues,” says Dr. Elias C. Mavrofrides, managing partner and medical director of the Florida Retina Institute. 


Mavrofrides says that in general men tend to be a little less strict than women at managing these underlying conditions and that there’s a propensity with younger men in their 30s, 40s and early 50s to be nonchalant about their medical care. 

“That is the demographic we worry a little more about. They are the ones busy working, they have families and they feel somewhat invincible and so they don’t often take these things quite as serious,” he says. 

The pandemic has added to those challenges as some folks became reluctant to make appointments out of fear of the virus. But now as things are opening up more and patients are coming back to the office, Mavrofrides says they are seeing the progression of disease in patients with diabetes or high blood pressure. 

“What we are hoping is that as we come out of the pandemic, this re-emphasis on health care becomes more evident and people get back on track. And so some of this progression we can try to reverse and get people more focused on taking care of themselves moving forward,” he says.



Oftentimes, the struggle to conceive is thought of as a women’s issue, but male infertility attributes to nearly 50% of all cases. Despite this fact, many men are still sheepish about pursuing treatment, according to Dr. George Patounakis, a reproductive endocrinologist who serves as the medical director of Reproductive Medicine Associates in Lake Mary. 

“There are certainly more guys who are taking the initiative to come in and take that first step, but it’s still nowhere near the number of women who take that first step,” says Patounakis, who is also an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Central Florida.

Thankfully, the latest breakthroughs and advancements in the field are making it easier to help couples in their journey to reproduce. One such example is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where the sperm is directly injected into the egg. The technique is often used when traditional in vitro fertilization methods don’t work because perhaps the egg is too thick to be penetrated by the sperm.

And there are plenty of ways for men to be proactive with their own self-care. Leading a healthy lifestyle can make all the difference and have a noticeable impact on reproductive health. While not drinking to excess or quitting smoking are good places to start, Patounakis says men should also pay attention to other health conditions that can negatively impact one’s fertility.

“Diabetes can lead to a condition called retrograde ejaculation, where the nerves that are involved with the ejaculation process are damaged and a man’s sperm goes backward into his bladder instead of coming out forward through the penis,” he says.

While men are becoming more engaged in matters of reproductive health, there are still those who remain dismissive and that continues to puzzle Patounakis because “you don’t think twice about going to the doctor if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. This should be treated the same way.”