Type 2 Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Is There a Connection

October 07,2020 |

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases across the world and has been steadily rising in the United States over the last decade. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that cannot be avoided, it only affects less than 10% of all diagnosed cases. Most of the people who have been diagnosed are living with type 2 diabetes. There are many factors that lead someone to develop type 2 diabetes—a lot which has to do with unhealthy lifestyle choices and the subsequent effect on your body. Unfortunately, once type 2 diabetes has developed, it can’t be completely reversed. However, there are ways for you to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The thing to remember is that you need to live a healthy lifestyle both before and after a diagnosis. If you have diabetes, there are a number of complications that can arise when it’s not properly managed. People with diabetes have to take care of themselves to avoid any long-term problems such as eye damage, nerve pain, kidney damage, heart issues, and more. Alongside the potential complications, diabetes can cause issues that affect your life in more emotional and psychological ways—especially in men. In this article, we’ll discuss the link between type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction (ED) and what you can do for treatment.

The Connection Between Diabetes and ED

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. Due to how diabetes affects your blood flow, between 35% and 75% of men living with diabetes will experience some degree of erectile dysfunction during their lifetime. Most doctors believe that this is because of the impact on your blood vessels and nerves when living with diabetes, although the definitive distinction is still unknown. Due to the high prevalence of younger men with diabetes experiencing ED, it is often one of the factors that identifies undiagnosed cases. If you’re currently struggling with ED, are 40 or younger, and have not been diagnosed with diabetes in the past, call your doctor today. It’s important that you fully understand what’s causing your erectile dysfunction in order to treat it properly.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction Amongst Men with Diabetes

According to research, about half of men who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will develop ED within five to 10 years of their diagnosis. If they already have some underlying cardiovascular issue, their odds become even greater. Why exactly does this happen? There are a number of different reasons. Men with diabetes may be more likely to develop ED due to blood vessel damage, lower testosterone levels, depression, medication side effects, or a combination of the above. 

Blood Vessel Damage

Diabetes leads to higher rates of sugar in the bloodstream, which can damage small blood vessels over time.1 This more damage there is to small blood vessels, the harder it is to have and maintain an erection over time. This is one reason that men who don’t manage their diabetes properly experience ED. High blood pressure can also cause damage to blood vessels in the penis.1

Lower Testosterone Levels

About ¼ of men living with diabetes also experience low testosterone levels. Since testosterone is crucial for a healthy sexual function, low levels can lead to ED.

Depression

Diabetes distress is a very real thing that affects both men and women. When left untreated, this can lead to worsening depression or even anxiety. Both depression and anxiety can lead to problems getting and maintaining an erection over time.

Medication

Depending on the management of your type 2 diabetes, you might need to take supplemental medication to reduce your risk of complications such as heart problems or other circulatory issues. Certain medications can cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect from varying blood pressure.

Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

If you’re living with diabetes and are experiencing bouts of erectile dysfunction, don’t give up hope. There are treatment options that can help you restore your ability to get and maintain an erection. To do so, it’s important to work with your doctor and develop a treatment plan. While talking about ED may seem embarrassing, one conversation can make a world of difference. Millions of men go through this at least once during their lifetime and your doctor has heard it all before, so there’s no reason to hold back. The best way to get treatment for your ED is to have an open, honest conversation with your doctor and follow the instructions they give you. 

Lifestyle Changes

Erectile dysfunction can have serious effects on your mood and overall demeanor, but it doesn’t have to define your life. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can improve erectile dysfunction while simultaneously keeping your mind and body healthy. One of the best things you can do is quit smoking and monitor your alcohol intake. While tobacco and alcohol are legal substances, they’re extremely addictive and have terrible effects on your heath. Tobacco severely narrows your blood vessels, which worsens erectile dysfunction. It also decreases nitric oxide in your body, which is a chemical that signals your body to allow blood flow to your penis.1 Alcohol has similar effects and makes it difficult to maintain an erection. If you need help quitting or reducing your alcohol intake, talk to your doctor about resources today.

Some other positive lifestyle changes to make include losing excess weight and making sure that you move your body in some way every day. Exercise can help increase blood flow and endorphins, both of which will help erectile dysfunction. Stress also has a huge impact on your mental health, which can exasperate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can overcome stress and live a healthy, active lifestyle—it just takes a little work. Make sure that you’re eating healthy and avoiding ultra-processed foods for the best diabetes management plan.

Oral Medication

Oral medications can be taken to help increase blood flow into the penis and contribute towards erections. The most commonly known oral medication is Viagra (sildenafil), but there are alternative options such as Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil). Talk to your doctor about trying an oral medication and always ask about any risk factors or side effects prior to taking them. If you have ED as a result of low testosterone levels, hormone replacement therapy may prove to be an effective treatment option.

Medication

There are also plenty of non-oral treatment options that men can take for erectile dysfunction. The most common options are hormone medications through injection or insertion into the urethra and sex therapy. Alprostadil is a form of hormone medication that stimulates blood flow to the penis. It is given either through intracavernosal injection or intraurethral application. Sex therapy has been shown to help treat erectile dysfunction, but you need to be persistent and have an optimistic outlook during treatment. Talk to your doctor and your partner about sex therapy to ensure that communication is strong, and the treatment plan is well understood by both. 

Penis or Vacuum Pump

A penis pump is a hollow tube that’s placed over your penis and uses air suction to help draw blood flow into your penis for an erection. It’s considered the most popular mechanical treatment option and has extremely low risks when used properly. You will need to use it before sex, but there are plenty of options available on the market today to make the process as easy as possible.

Penile Implants

If medication, mechanical treatment, and lifestyle changes haven’t worked, there is a surgical option. Penile implants are done to install a semirigid or inflatable implant that can be used to have sex. This should be a last resort as surgery always comes with risks. Talk to your doctor about penile implants and the risks associated with penile surgery before making any decisions

Conclusion

Having diabetes means that you need to take certain precautions and commit to a healthy diabetes management plan regardless of if you’re a man or woman with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. When managed poorly, the result can be physical like ED or mental like diabetes distress—both of which will take a toll on the quality of your life. To help you with your diabetes management, make sure you’re using a good blood glucose meter or continuous glucose monitoring device. If you’re not, Byram Healthcare has you covered. We’re proud to provide you with the latest technology in diabetes management, including continuous glucose monitoring. We’ll work with your insurance provider and doctor to ensure you’re supported from start to finish, maximizing your coverage while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. For more information and added support on diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program. We focus on providing exceptional customer service and top-of-the-line brand name products while lowering your overhead costs. The Caring Touch At Home Program combines convenience, affordability, and choice to deliver extensive service and support to everyone living with diabetes. 

For added support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Byram’s Diabetes Center of Excellence—a one source, total solution for diabetes care. Our Center of Excellence combines high quality products with clinical and educational research to help you better manage your condition, support all of your needs, and live a long, healthy life.

 

Sources:

1 https://www.goodrx.com/blog/diabetes-and-erectile-dysfunction-causes-treatments/

 

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