Diabetes and erectile dysfunction: A common problem

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Diabetes and erectile dysfunction: A common problem

One of the most common and yet often neglected medical problems in men with diabetes is erectile dysfunction (ED).  ED is just one of many complications that men with diabetes can develop. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain as erection firm enough for sex and men with diabetes have a higher incidence of this than men without diabetes. But just how many men with diabetes are affected by ED?

A recent observational study conducted in India, found that 78% of men with diabetes had some form of ED compared to 46% of men who did not have diabetes.  The study included 225 participants between the ages of 18 and 65.

It has been known that there is a link between ED and diabetes. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), studies estimate that 20 to 75 percent of men with diabetes experience sexual dysfunction. It is also known too that ED often occurs earlier in men with diabetes than in men without the disease.

An interesting finding from this recent study was that the longer a man had been diagnosed with diabetes, the more at risk he is of developing ED. Among the participants who had diabetes for less than five years, 43.6% had ED, with only 3.6% having severe ED. For men who’ve had diabetes for 6-10 years, 83% had ED, with 10.9% having severe ED. It continues to get worse the longer a man has diabetes as those who’ve had the disease for over 10 years, 78.6% had ED, with 16.4% experiencing severe ED.

For men with ED, it is often an embarrassing condition many men do not like to talk about.  It can lead to physical or psychological implications including stress, relationship strain, and low self-esteem.

Because of the prevalence of ED among men with diabetes and how it likely continues to get worse with time, it is critical that all men with diabetes be screened at regular intervals by their doctor so that appropriate treatment can be done. Many men may not bring up the topic due to fear of shame. Doctors ideally should ask their male patients with diabetes at every appointment, if they are experiencing ED. Patients who are already suffering from ED should not feel ashamed or worry about taboo but instead discuss the matter with their doctor as there are treatments available to help.

Not only is ED a problem for a man’s enjoyment of sex, but ED is also linked to other conditions common in men with diabetes, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It is not uncommon that men having difficulty maintaining an erection could be a symptoms preceding a diagnosis of diabetes.

Talk to an expert

For men, having ED can be a challenge leaving them and their partner feeling frustrated and discouraged. But, there are steps each man with ED can take to cope with it and to get their sex like back on track.

·      Open up to your doctor about what’s going on – If the doctor is not bringing up ED, then a man who is experiencing it, needs to.

·      Learn ways to better manage diabetes – Improving blood sugar levels is an important first step in dealing with ED.  This can make a difference in preventing nerve and blood vessel damage that can lead to ED. When blood sugar levels are in a healthier range, men will often feel better improving the quality of their life.  Start eating a better diet, getting in regular exercise, lose weight if needed, and monitor blood sugar levels daily.

·      Ask about other health problems – Besides diabetes, other chronic conditions can cause or worsen ED. Men who work with their doctor can together figure out how to address these other conditions to improve them also.

·      Check medications – Doctors should review all medications a man with diabetes is taking at every visit as some medications could be making ED worse.

·      Consider various treatment options for ED – Luckily, there are several ED treatments available. The popular oral medications such as Viagra or Cialis can help ease blood flow to the penis making it easier to achieve an erection. All men with ED should discuss other options with their doctor such as a vacuum-constriction device, medication to inject into the base of the penis and even possibly a surgical penile implant.

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