Diabetes and erectile dysfunction often occur together. Diabetes destroys the nerves and blood vessels in a man's body, which can lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence. In some cases, the connection between diabetes and erectile dysfunction is not the diabetes itself, but another condition common with diabetes, such as high blood pressure.
Men with diabetes usually develop erectile dysfunction at a younger age than those without diabetes. In some cases, diabetes and erectile dysfunction are diagnosed at the same time, usually when a man sees his doctor for impotence problems. The doctor may decide to test the patient's glucose levels during the exam, leading to a diagnosis of diabetes and erectile dysfunction.
When a person has diabetes, there is too much glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. Normally, the pancreas produces insulin that clears away the glucose. A person with diabetes either doesn't produce insulin on his own or has consumed so much sugar that his body is insulin resistant. The excess sugar causes a wide range of problems, from the mild, such as thirst and the need to urinate frequently, to the more serious. Excess glucose can cause damage to the blood vessels and capillaries that feed the nerves. Nerve damage is one cause of erectile dysfunction, as is a lack of blood flow that results from the damaged vessels.
A man with diabetes and erectile dysfunction may also have lower levels of testosterone than usual. Men who have diabetes are more than twice as likely to have low testosterone than those who do not have diabetes. Erectile dysfunction is a common sign of lower testosterone, as is depression and a lack of interest in sex. Fortunately, low testosterone can be treated with injections or patches.
One way to treat erectile dysfunction that accompanies diabetes is to manage and control the diabetes. A man should do his best to keep his blood sugar levels low. Men with diabetes should also keep their blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, as high levels of either can result in diabetes complications. If a man has trouble controlling his diabetes, he should see his doctor to adjust his treatment plan and medications.
While certain medications are available that target erectile dysfunction, a man with diabetes and erectile dysfunction should use caution before taking them, as they may cause cardiovascular problems. Men with diabetes and erectile dysfunction may benefit from sex therapy, a pump, or injections. Most men benefit from making healthy changes to their life, such as adding exercise, reducing alcohol intake, and quitting tobacco use.