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Diabetes and erectile dysfunction
February 24, 2022
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Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetes has been on the rise in the United States and is one of the most common chronic diseases worldwide. Patients with diabetes not only have to manage their blood glucose levels to prevent long-term health problems (like kidney damage, eye damage, nerve pain, and heart problems), but they also experience issues that impact their lives more emotionally, such as problems with having or maintaining an erection that can affect their sex lives. Here we learn more about Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

There are many causes of erectile dysfunction (ED) which can be physical, psychological, or both. One of the most common causes of ED is diabetes.

Studies suggest that 35-75 percent of men with diabetes will go on to develop ED. They will also tend to develop ED some 10-15 years earlier than men without diabetes.

Diabetes can cause ED because it can damage the blood supply to the penis and the nerves that control an erection.

When a man becomes sexually aroused, a chemical called nitric oxide is released into his bloodstream. This nitric oxide tells the arteries and the muscles in the penis to relax, which allows more blood to flow into the penis. This gives the man an erection.

Men with diabetes struggle with blood sugar level swings, especially if their condition isn’t managed poorly.

When their blood sugar levels get too high, less nitric oxide is produced. This can mean that there is not enough blood flowing into the penis to get or keep an erection. Low levels of nitric oxide are often found in those with diabetes.

How are diabetes and erectile dysfunction related?

For men, type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction, or ED for short. Based on data from a survey study, the risk is 50% higher for men with diabetes compared to men without diabetes, regardless of what type of diabetes they have. While many men may develop ED as they age, those who have diabetes may develop ED 5 – 10 years earlier than most.

It is important to note that ED can be related to insufficient blood flowing to the penis (vascular), emotional issues such as depression (psychological), or problems with the nerves to the penis (neurological). Diabetes can cause or make these issues worse. As such, patients with diabetes who experience ED tend to notice that the problem gradually gets worse.

Current medical knowledge has identified several likely causes in patients specifically with diabetes.

Damage to blood vessels

Diabetes means there’s more sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, and this can damage small blood vessels (called microvascular disease). This is what leads to kidney damage, loss of vision, and nerve pain. But, damage to small blood vessels in the penis also makes it harder to have and maintain an erection. That’s why ED is worse in men with long-standing, uncontrolled diabetes. Men with diabetes and high blood pressure may also see an increased risk of ED due to further damage to the vessels in the penis.

Low testosterone levels

It’s estimated that 25% of men with diabetes have low testosterone levels. As testosterone has a large impact on sexual function in men, low testosterone can lead to ED.


Many men with diabetes may become depressed or have anxiety due to the stress of having to manage a difficult disease. Depression can lead to various issues with having an erection. One example is a lack of sleep that causes a loss of morning erections (“morning wood”), which is natural in healthy men. Anxiety can cause men to suddenly have a loss of an erection during sex or have difficulty making an erection.

Read Also : Sexual Performance Anxiety/Nervousness and Erectile dysfunction :Causes, Symptoms

Medication side effects

Many men who have diabetes are treated with multiple medications to reduce their risk of heart problems or complications from diabetes. Some of these medications may also lead to ED by lowering blood pressure or causing other side effects that make an erection difficult.

Other causes of erectile dysfunction

Listed below are some other reasons for ED:

  1. obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  2. hormonal problems such as low testosterone
  3. psychological problems including stress, anxiety, and depression
  4. nervous system problems including damage to the spinal cord or brain
  5. smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and using some illegal drugs
  6. some medications such as those taken for high blood pressure and depression

How can I manage erectile dysfunction if I have diabetes?

Since patients with diabetes often have many other health issues to think about, it is impossible to offer a “one-size-fits-all” recommendation for addressing ED. Nonetheless, there are multiple options you can consider.

Erectile dysfunction due to diabetes is much better understood now. Good control of diabetes can reduce the risk of ED.

Other preventive measures such as stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake will help lower the risk of developing ED.

Other lifestyle changes that may help include:

Eating a healthy diet and taking exercise

Studies suggest trusted Source that men who changed their diet to one low in saturated fat and high in fiber and did moderate physical activity each week were able to improve ED without prescription drugs.

Weight loss

Some studies Trusted Source shows that even a small weight loss can improve erectile function and sexual desire in men with diabetes. Those who lost weight had increased testosterone levels and blood flow resulting in better erections.

Stress reduction

ED can cause stress and tension in a relationship. Counseling can be helpful even if the origins of sexual dysfunction are physical. People with ED should try to find time for relaxation and get enough sleep every night.

A new study trusted Source also suggests that supplementation with amino acids called l-arginine and l-citrulline may also help to improve erectile function. These acids are known to increase the body’s production of nitric oxide, which can increase blood flow to the penis. As stated previously, low levels of nitric oxide are often found in men with diabetes.

Read Also:  Which vitamins benefit erectile dysfunction? Vitamins for ED


Treatment of ED will depend on the cause and there is a range of good treatment options. These are the same for men with diabetes and men who have ED from other causes.

Drug options

Doctors can switch any prescription medications that may contribute to ED.
The most common treatment is with oral tablets. These have been shown to work well in many men with diabetes, restoring sexual function. Certain drugs called PDE-5 inhibitors are used to treat ED.

There are five PDE5 inhibitors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ED:

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These drugs cause an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis. They require sexual stimulation to be effective. They should be taken 30-60 minutes before sexual intercourse.

Since diabetes can cause ED in many ways, be sure to talk with your doctor about your treatment plan. Many online resources may recommend alternative therapies or stopping certain medications you may be on. While you can consider these options, you should speak with your doctor before making any abrupt changes to avoid dangerous health effects or actually making your ED worse. Lastly, sex is often an intimate interaction with a partner, and even though struggling with ED may be frustrating, it is important that both you and your partner feel supported. Consider couples counseling or support groups if you feel that it may be beneficial.

There are several other forms of treatment for ED. These include:

1) Hormone therapy

Testosterone replacement therapy is recommended for men with ED who show low levels of testosterone.

2) Penile injection therapy

Injection of alprostadil (Caverject) directly into the penis before intercourse has been approved for men who do not respond to oral drug therapy. This hormone injection increases the blood supply to the penis to produce an erection.

3) Vacuum pump therapy

A plastic tube connected to a pump is placed over the penis. The pump empties the air out of the tube and this causes blood to be drawn into the penis. A ring is then placed on the base of the penis to maintain the erection during intercourse.

4) Penile prosthesis

This is only considered when all other treatment options have failed as it requires major surgery. An inflatable rod is implanted into the penis to make it erect for intercourse.

5) Psychological support

If erectile dysfunction is caused by psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression, the patient may benefit from counseling.

A well-balanced diet, exercise, and good stress management have been shown to be equally important in treating diabetes

Read Also : Diet, Sexy Supplements & Home Remedies For Erectile Dysfunction

11 Ways to Improve Your Erectile Dysfunction

If you want to achieve stronger and longer-lasting erections, the first step is to identify the underlying cause of your erectile dysfunction. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the factors contributing to your sexual dysfunction then take a moment to explore the treatment options.

  1. One Erectile Dysfunction Remedy Is a Healthy Diet
  2. Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
  3. Good Sleep Is a Natural Erectile Dysfunction Treatment
  4. Take Steps to Control Your Stress
  5. Quit Smoking to Stop Erectile Dysfunction
  6. Limit Alcohol to Improve ED
  7. Get Your Testosterone Levels Tested
  8. Try Taking Natural Supplements
  9. Talk to Your healthcare provider About ED Medications
  10. Communicate With Your Partner
  11. Regular Doctor Visit

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