Can diabetes cause erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Dana Artinyan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a symptom of diabetes. First, have your doctor conduct a blood test to determine whether or not you have elevated blood sugar. If you do have diabetes, you would want to talk to your endocrinologist regarding your blood glucose control to determine if this is impacting your symptoms. Your doctor may also refer you to a urologist to determine if there are other issues and/or to find you the right medications. Please talk to your doctor regarding any ED medications as they may interfere with other medications or they may not be appropriate in light of other medical conditions.

About 1 in 5 American men have erectile dysfunction (ED) -- the inability to maintain an erection so that you can have sexual activity. If you are a man with diabetes, you are also more likely to have a lower sex drive, which increases your chance of having ED. A study of men aged 55 to 75 years old who had type 2 diabetes found that more than 70% of them had ED.

Diabetes causes a variety of health problems, including ED. In fact, ED can be the first sign of diabetes. It can also be the first sign of heart disease and other illnesses. If you are having problems getting or keeping an erection, it’s important to tell your doctor so you can be checked for potentially serious illnesses. Also, erectile dysfunction can cause low self-esteem and lead to depression because of the effect it may have on intimate relationships.

Men, their partners, and their doctors should have open conversations about ED. Most of the time, it can be corrected. Just as medical science has delivered many treatments for diabetes—such as pills, injections, and inhalers—it has delivered many for ED.

If treatment is penile implant surgery, find a qualified surgeon and know your costs. Remember, if your surgery is not covered by insurance, look for surgery packages as a way to lower expenses.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Diabetes is double-edged sword. Not only can it damage your nerves and your small blood vessels, but it can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to have or maintain an erection. To have a successful erection, your brain needs to send signals that cause the tiny blood vessels in your penis to fill up with blood, and lock it in there until you ejaculate. Diabetes interferes with this process. Guys with diabetes who develop ED  tend to get it as many as 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. The good news: Controlling diabetes and talking with your doctor about the many successful ED treatments can ensure an enjoyable sex life into the future.

Learn about the relationship between diabetes and erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) linked to diabetes is related to the damage diabetes does to your blood vessels, promoting vascular disease. Furthermore, diabetes damages nerves, which may also contribute to ED.

Some men with diabetes have impotence, also called erectile dysfunction or ED. Erectile dysfunction is when a man can no longer have or keep an erection. Lifestyle choices that contribute to heart disease and vascular problems also increase the chances of ED. Smoking, being overweight and being inactive can contribute to ED. Experts believe that psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem and fear of sexual failure cause 10 to 20 percent of ED cases.

Europathy and cardiovascular disease, blood vessel damage and nerve disease are all culprits of ED. ED caused by physical problems usually comes on slowly and worsens over time. Early symptoms include a less rigid penis during sexual stimulation and when you wake up. Over time, men with ED may not be able to sustain firm erections long enough to enjoy sexual intercourse.

Diabetes causes nerve and blood vessel damage all over the body that interferes with transmission of signals related to arousal and sexual function, as well as blood flow to the penis for an erection. For this reason, men who have diabetes can experience erectile dysfunction (ED) 10 to 15 years sooner than other men. Research shows that ED may even be an early sign of diabetes, especially for men younger than age 45.

Dr. Jan L. Shifren, MD
Fertility Specialist

Unchecked, diabetes can be devastating to sexual function. About 35 to 50 percent of men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction. The disease contributes to erectile problems in at least two ways: it can impair the nerves that instruct the arteries of the penis to dilate, and it can restrict blood flow to the penis by damaging the blood vessels. People with diabetes often have high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood—all of which may further damage blood vessels and impede blood flow.

Among men with diabetes, erectile dysfunction usually develops gradually over a period of months or years. At first, the erection may not be as rigid as it once was or can't be sustained. Sometimes, erectile dysfunction is the first sign that a man has diabetes.

Carefully controlling blood sugar can help prevent the vascular and neurological complications that contribute to sexual problems. But even with proper treatment, men who have diabetes are three times as likely as other men to develop erectile dysfunction.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.