Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in
men with diabetes, with a prevalence of 20 to 85%.1 Men who have
diabetes are thought to develop erectile dysfunction between 10 and 15 years
earlier than men who do not suffer from the condition, regardless of insulin
To get an erection, men need healthy
blood vessels, nerves, male hormones, and a desire to be sexually stimulated.
Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control erection.
Therefore, even if you have normal amounts of male hormones and you have the
desire to have sex, you still may not be able to achieve a firm erection.2
common cause of erectile dysfunction is damage to arteries, smooth muscles and
fibrous tissues which can in turn be caused by diabetes, kidney disease and
Unfortunately, ED can also be a side effect of some common
medications for example those used for conditions such as high blood pressure
and depression. Always ask your doctor if you're taking any medications that might be
worsening your erectile problems as making a change to your medications might
Even when the underlying cause of ED
is physical, such as diabetes, psychological factors like anxiety can play an
important secondary role when a man who has had some erectile difficulty starts
to anticipate and fear sexual failure3.
and management of erectile dysfunction
Although you may feel uncomfortable at
first, it is important to speak to your healthcare professional as soon as
possible so that he can determine the exact cause of your ED and work out a
treatment plan accordingly.
Part of your treatment plan might
include the following suggestions:
good glycaemic control 4
ED stems from damage to
nerves and blood vessels caused by poor long-term blood sugar control.
Improving your blood sugar levels can help prevent nerve and blood vessel
damage that can lead to erectile dysfunction. You will also feel better overall
and improve your quality of life.
2. Say no to bad habits 3,4
limit or avoid habits such as smoking, and drinking alcohol3. Tobacco
use, including smoking, can narrow your blood vessels which can lead to or
worsen erectile dysfunction4. Excess alcohol can also contribute to
erectile dysfunction so if you do drink, choose to do so in moderation4.
Try to limit your daily intake of alcohol to one drink a day for men older than
65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger4. Follow a healthy, balanced eating plan and try
to engage in regular exercise to help you lose weight, reduce stress and
increase blood flow4.
3. Ask about other health problems 4
can be quite common for men who have diabetes to be diagnosed with other
chronic conditions that can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Work with
your doctor to make sure you are taking care of all health problems you may be
4. Seek counselling 4
and stress can make erectile dysfunction worse and this could lead to a
negative impact on your intimate partner. Remember that in addition to the
number of oral medications and even injections that are available to treat ED,
a psychologist, counsellor or other mental health specialist can also be of
great benefit in order to help you and your partner find ways to cope with this
importantly, always speak to your healthcare professional to find the right
treatment plan for you that still enables optimal diabetes therapy.
1. Awad H, Et al. Erectile function in men with
diabetes type 2: correlation with glycemic control. International Journal of
Impotence Research (2010) 22, 36-39
2. WebMD. (2017) Erectile dysfunction and
diabetes. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/ed-diabetes[Accessed
14 February 2018].
3. Health24. (Updated 2017) Erectile dysfunction
Condition Centre. Causes of and Treatment of Erectile dysfunction. [online]
Available at: https://www.health24.com/Medical/Erectile-dysfunction/Overview/Treatment-of-ED-20140515[Accessed 13 February 2018]. Reviewed by Dr Dave Bowden MBBCh
(Wits), FCS (SA) Urol. Specialist Urologist in private practice,
Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cape Town. (February 2015)
4. Mayo Clinic. (2018) Erectile dysfunction and
diabetes: Take Control Today. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/in-depth/erectile-dysfunction/art-20043927[Accessed
14 February 2018].