Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction Can Go Hand in Hand

By Marc Siegelbaum, MD

When a couple’s sex life begins to suffer because the male partner is experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), it’s not something that should be brushed aside. ED is not just a sexual problem, but often a symptom of a more complex medical condition. Diabetes is one of the more common ailments that affect a man’s erectile function, yet many men are unaware they even have the condition until they begin experiencing symptoms such as problems with erections.

Diabetes causes a twofold attack on the ability to initiate good erections. It causes damage to both the penile and perineal nerves which are responsible for carrying the sensory impulses to the brain(which initiates the entire sexual response). It also damages the small blood vessels which are responsible for the blood flow to the cavernous spaces of the penis, hence preventing an erection.

So, a man who has normal sexual desire and who has normal testosterone levels may still experience ED because of restricted blood flow to the penis due to diabetes. Consider some of these staggering statistics from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse:

- Some 20% to close to 75% of men with diabetes will experience at least some degree of erectile dysfunction during their lifetime.

- According to some research studies, ED may be an early indicator of diabetes, particularly in men ages 45 or younger.

- Men with diabetes may experience problems with ED 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes.

Men who experience ED should see their urologist for a comprehensive medical exam to find the root cause of the erectile issue. Oftentimes, underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, for example, are diagnosed. It’s important to get treatment for such medical conditions and at the same time, be treated for your erectile dysfunction.

There are a number of treatment options for ED, from oral medications and vacuum devices to injections and penile implants. Your doctor will work with you to find the best option based on your medical history.

ED is not just another part of aging and shouldn’t be taken lightly. When diseases such as diabetes are the cause of your ED, medical treatment and monitoring is just what the doctor ordered.