Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction – how they’re connected?
Diabetes has been on the rise in the word as most common chronic diseases worldwide. Patients with diabetes should monitor and control their blood glucose levels to prevent long-term health problems (like kidney damage, eye damage, nerve pain, and heart problems), also suffer issues that impact their lives more emotionally, such as problems with erection that can affect their sex lives.
How are diabetes and erectile dysfunction related?
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can result in increased risk of erectile dysfunction, or ED for short. Survey shows that 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 others. It is to be noted that ED can be linked to insufficient blood flowing to penis, emotional issues such as stress, or problems with the neural system to the penis. Diabetes has the potential to make the issues worse.
Causes in patients specifically with diabetes:
- Blood Vessel Damages – Diabetes means bloodstream is glucose rich, and this results in damage of small blood vessels. This may lead to kidney damage, vision loss, Pain etc. Similarly damage to small blood vessels in the penis and neighbourhood also makes it difficult to have and maintain an erection. That’s the major reason for ED is worse in men with long-standing, uncontrolled diabetes. Men with diabetes and high blood pressure also see high risks of ED due to further damage to the vessels in the penis.
- Low testosterone – It’s found that 25% of men with diabetes have low testosterone levels. As testosterone is the major player in sexual function, low testosterone can lead to ED.
- Depression – Many men with diabetes may become depressed or have anxiety due to the challenges raised by disease. It will result in various issues with having an erection. For example, a lack of sleep can cause loss of “morning wood”, which is expected in healthy men. Anxiety can cause sudden loss of an erection during sex or have difficulty in getting into erection.
- Medication side effects – Some medications to reduce their risk of heart problems or complications from diabetes may lead to ED by lowering blood pressure or resulting other side effects in erection.
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How can I control ED if I have diabetes?
As the Diabetic patients may have other health issues, we can’t suggest a ‘one size fit all’ approach for it. Instead we can try by managing many things: such as-
- Lifestyle Changes – Treatment of diabetes depends on lifestyle changes, many of them not to reduce blood glucose only, along with it can strengthen the body and reduce the risk of ED. It is observed that better glucose control was shown to enhance erections and reduce the risk of ED.
- Quit smoking – Smoking increases the risk for ED by raising your blood pressure, over time, it can damage small blood vessels in penis. It’s even worse if you have diabetes as it can cause blood vessel damage.
- Fat and cholesterol reduction in diet – Studies have shown that high cholesterol has a higher risk of ED, and that dietary changes to lower fat and cholesterol levels can help reduce this risk.
- Exercises and Weight Control – Controlling weight is important for men with diabetes who is obese as it can help lower blood glucose levels and better blood circulation. In Research, weight control has been a great means of attaining sexual function back for many men.
- Stress Management – Diabetes can lead to psychological challenges, such as depression or anxiety, which can worsen ED. Overcoming stress can be practiced in many ways including meditation or counselling.
Mechanical Devices and Benefits
As diabetes is causing difficulties with blood flow into the penis, some mechanical devices can help to improve blood flow, mainly for those medications’ difficulties. These include vacuum-assisted erection devices that help to flow blood into the penis to enhance an erection, which is an efficient method for 2 out of every 3 men. Another invasive method is prosthetic surgery- Prosthesis is inserted into the penis that will inflate whenever sex is desired. These devices are one time expense over medicines, so it’s always advised to prefer mechanical devices by examining the medical condition.
A planned-balanced diet, adequate exercise, and well managed stress control practice have been shown to be very important in treating diabetes.