Why erectile dysfunction can be a sign of diabetes

It is estimated that there are about 30 million men who will experience erectile dysfunction (ED) at any given time.  Even though ED is not life-threatening, it could be a sign of something more serious and one is the possibility of diabetes.  Somewhere between 20 and 75 percent of men with diabetes will also have erectile dysfunction.   A man with diabetes can have a doubling or tripling risk of having this condition.    Erectile dysfunction and diabetes are so closely linked that some experts believe that a man younger than age 45 with ED could be an early indicator or warning sign of diabetes. 

Why diabetes and ED are connected

When a man has uncontrolled high blood sugar or higher than normal blood sugar levels, this can damage the blood vessels throughout the body.  In order for a man to be able to achieve an erection, there needs to be good blood flow to the tiny vessels in the penis.  But uncontrolled diabetes can also do damage to theses blood vessels in the penis affecting the ability of a man to achieve an erection. 

The blood system is not the only area in the body diabetes affects.  Nerves throughout the body can also be damaged by diabetes.  For men this can result in nerve dysfunction in the penile shaft which can eventually cause the muscles to atrophy being replaced by scar tissue or collagen rather than smooth muscle.

What are the risk factors for impotence?

Men who are most at risk for ED related to type 2 diabetes often have the following risk factors:

·High blood sugar

·High A1C number or higher than average blood glucose numbers

·High cholesterol

·High blood pressure

·Low testosterone

·Are overweight or obese

·Age 40 or older

·Smokes cigarettes

·Does not exercise

What a man can do to reduce his risk for ED when he has type 2 diabetes?

Not all men who have type 2 diabetes will have ED.  But to help reduce the possibility of ED becoming a problem, here are some strategies a man can do to prevent ED:

·Keep diabetes under control – Whether a man has ED or not, it is imperative for anyone with type 2 diabetes to keep his A1C number at a healthy range of no higher than 7%.  The A1C test is a blood test used to measure the average level of glucose in the blood over the last two to three months and is used as a means of checking how well blood sugar levels are being controlled for a person with diabetes.

·Check blood sugars daily – Every person with diabetes should be encouraged to take their blood sugar at least once daily.  Some will be asked by their doctors to check more frequently each day.  By checking and recording blood sugar daily, this helps a man to know how well-controlled his blood sugar is.  This can help him to make adjustments as necessary in his lifestyle according to his readings.

·Follow a healthy diet – Eat well-balance meals composed of healthy carbohydrates and lean protein.  Do not skip meals and try to eat at the same times each day to help achieve better blood sugar control. 

·Check medications – A man with diabetes and ED should ask his doctor if any medications he is taking might be worsening erectile problems.  Drugs used to treat depression or high blood pressure may be the actual culprit - if those medications are the problem, making a change to the medications may help.

·Lose excess weight – Being overweight not only makes it harder to control diabetes but it can also cause or worsen erectile dysfunction.

·Include physical activity in daily activities – Exercise can help with underlying conditions that play a part in ED in a number of ways including reducing stress, helping a man to lose weight and increasing blood flow.