Erectile dysfunction or the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse has been shown to be closely linked to diabetes. In fact, half of men with diabetes have sexual troubles caused by their disease4. In some men; ED can even be the first symptom of diabetes7.
How does diabetes cause ED? In a normal erection, signals from the brain cause the nerves surrounding a man’s penis to become active. This causes the muscles around his arteries to relax and allow more blood to flow to the penis. An erection occurs when blood fills the two chambers in the penis known as the corpora cavernosa. This filling causes the penis to expand and stiffen creating an erection. In short, good erections require healthy nerves and good blood flow54.
Over time, it is very common for people with diabetes to experience nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels. Diabetic nerve damage can lead to loss of sensation or feeling in the feet or hands. It can also cause problems with the signals which help create erections7. 60-70% of people with diabetes have nerve damage60.
Tough But Not Untreatable
Studies have shown that men with diabetes are three times more likely to experience ED than men without diabetes and it typically affects these men 10-15 years earlier in life7. In men with diabetes, ED is often more severe and associated with a poorer quality of life7.
Diabetes and the health problems associated with the disease can irreversibly damage the nerves and tissues associated with achieving and maintaining an erection making some treatments less effective7. Oral medications are a common first step to treat ED, but they require good sexual stimulation of the nerves in order to work effectively. If the nerves are damaged, as they often are with diabetes, the medications aren’t as effective8.
Fortunately, there are many ways to treat ED today. Seeing a specialist about the treatment of erectile dysfunction can help you find the treatment option that works best for you.
“Half of men with diabetes have sexual troubles caused by their disease4.”
ED may also be a signal that something more important is going on. Studies have shown that men with diabetes and ED develop coronary artery disease symptoms two to three years after ED sets in and experience cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke within three to five years61. Erectile dysfunction is not simply a problem in the bedroom, it can be an important sign that you should talk to your healthcare provider.
It is critical for all men to understand the important connection between ED, diabetes and heart disease. See a doctor specializing in erectile dysfunction to discuss your concerns. The good news is that no matter the severity or physical cause of a man’s ED, there are solutions to regain intimacy, self-confidence and return to a satisfying sex life.