Most people with diabetes know the long-term effects it can have on the body. That’s why they strive to live a healthy lifestyle and monitor their condition. If you’re a man with diabetes, you have an increased chance of erectile dysfunction (ED), which doctors call having a “risk factor” from diabetes. Men with type 1 diabetes have a greater risk of ED than men with type 2 diabetes.
However, because you’re experienced in keeping track of your health, you can feel confident about working ED management into your daily lifestyle.
How are ED and diabetes related?
One way diabetes can interfere with the ability to achieve an erection is through neuropathy, which means damaged nerves. Damaged nerves can’t send messages properly, including the messages the brain sends to the penis to get an erection. In addition, diabetes may be associated with vascular disease, meaning less blood may flow into the penis.
Unstable blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can also affect your erections.
Keep in mind also that ED may be caused by another condition, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis (MS), or nerve damage that is unrelated to diabetes.
How is ED diagnosed and treated?
The first step toward diagnosing and treating ED is to visit your doctor or other healthcare professional, who may suggest treatments for your ED or refer you to another doctor. Three out of four men with diabetes have ED at some point, so your condition is very likely something your doctor is familiar with.
What else can I do?
In addition to medication, your doctor may recommend the following.
Controlling Blood Sugar
This may help prevent and reduce nerve and blood vessel problems. Some of the things your doctor recommends may be part of your diabetes program already. Be sure to discuss any new recommendations with all of your doctors and healthcare professionals, as some new advice may conflict with your current program.
Be “Heart Healthy”
Since heart disease and high blood pressure can contribute to ED if you have diabetes, you should do what you can to keep your heart healthy and control your blood pressure. This may include changes in diet and exercise. Be sure to discuss any diet or exercise program with your doctor before starting it. If you have a cardiovascular condition already, you should continue to work with your doctor to make sure both conditions are treated together safely.
Avoid Large Amounts of Alcohol
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can make achieving an erection more difficult. Usually, men should have two or less drinks per day.
Quit or Reduce Tobacco Intake
Tobacco products can cause arteries to narrow and become blocked over time, which can also lessen the blood flow needed to achieve an erection.
Depression, anxiety and stress can all contribute to ED, whether caused by diabetes or not. Counseling can alleviate these feelings, and help restore a more positive, confident attitude.
The information contained here is provided from a third-party publication as a courtesy to our visitors. It is not to be considered an endorsement by Lilly ICOS LLC. Remember, only your doctor or other healthcare professional can determine if you have erectile dysfunction and if treatment is right for you.
SOURCE: The Journal of Urology
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.