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Home / Erectile Dysfunction / Diabetes and erectile dysfunction

Diabetes and erectile dysfunction

Are diabetic men more likely to suffer from ED?

Diabetes is a common condition that causes blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise above what is healthy. It currently affects as many as 442 million Trusted source World Health Organization (WHO) Government Source International Public Health Information Go to source people worldwide.

Whilst diabetes can cause a variety of health problems (such as nerve damage, blindness, and heart disease), it can also play a role in erectile dysfunction (ED).

This article will explain the link between diabetes and ED. It will also suggest some suitable treatment options if you are one of the many affected.

What are diabetes and erectile dysfunction?

Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed from an early age. Your body doesn’t have enough insulin (to reduce your blood sugar levels) because your immune system attacks the cells in charge of producing it.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops later in life, mostly due to being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle. In this case, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin by itself to keep blood sugar levels low.

Glucose levels chart showing the difference between normal, prediabetic, and diabetic

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the term used for describing the difficulty to achieve and maintain an erection. ED causes can be both physical or psychological - but the condition is ultimately caused by a lack of blood flow to the penis.

Yes, diabetes can increase your chances of ED. In fact,

Men with diabetes are three times more Trusted source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Government Source Go to source likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than non-diabetics.

There are three main reasons why diabetes increases your chances of getting ED. These include:

  • damage to the blood vessels
  • damage to nerves and nerve function
  • hormone imbalances such as lower levels of testosterone

Being an overweight diabetic can also cause mental health and body image struggles, which could worsen ED.

Blood vessels

Having too much glucose in your blood can cause damage to your blood vessels.

If your blood vessels are damaged, it can be difficult to achieve an erection because blood flow to the penis could be restricted.

Diabetes can also increase your risk of cardiovascular problems and heart disease. Heart disease can cause ED by narrowing the blood vessels, which can further limit blood flow.

Nerve function

If your blood sugar levels are too high, your nerve function can become affected. This is called diabetic neuropathy.

If the nerves which play a role in your sexual response are damaged, you may no longer be able to achieve an erection.

This cause of ED is not reversible. If your blood sugar levels cause damage to your blood vessels and nerves, you may need to rely on medication long-term in order to achieve erections.

Hormone imbalances

If you are a type 2 diabetic and you are overweight, your hormone levels can change and affect your erectile function.

In men, your testosterone levels decrease when you are overweight or obese.

If you don’t have enough testosterone, you may struggle to achieve erections and you might have a lower sex drive (libido).

What are the risk factors of diabetes that cause ED?

The following table summarises how the different risk factors of diabetes increase your chances of erectile dysfunction:

Risk factor Impact
Age The higher your age, the higher your risk of ED
How long you’ve had diabetes for Longer duration leads to a higher risk of ED
Poorly controlled blood sugar levels Increases damage to blood vessels and nerves
Obesity Causes hormonal imbalances and body image issues
Leading a sedentary lifestyle Increases risk of obesity and heart problems
Heart disease Causes blood vessels to narrow, limiting blood flow to the penis

How can I prevent ED as a diabetic?

If you are a type 1 diabetic, making lifestyle changes cannot prevent your diabetes (you will still require regular insulin injections as treatment).

However, type 2 diabetics can make certain lifestyle changes to improve their condition and help to prevent erectile dysfunction.

Controlling your blood sugar levels

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to start controlling your blood sugar levels and become aware of the foods you eat.

For lower blood sugar, aim to include the following foods in your diet:

  • a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • foods lower in saturated fats
  • lean meats like chicken and fish instead of red meat
  • less processed foods and more whole foods
  • lots of water (instead of fizzy drinks or juice)

This diet can also help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is often associated with diabetes.

Keep track of your blood sugar levels so you can gain an understanding of the foods that have more of an impact.

Weight management

If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to lose weight if you want to become healthier and reduce your chances of developing erectile dysfunction.

By reducing your calories and doing more physical activity, you can lose some of the extra weight you are carrying.

A display of items that can help you to lose weight

To begin with, try eating in a 500-calorie deficit and aim to do 30 minutes of exercise 2-3 times per week.

You can also try using weight loss medication, which helps you to lose weight by reducing your appetite and slowing your rate of digestion.

Healthier lifestyle choices

Both smoking and drinking alcohol can negatively affect your erectile function.

Smoking can cause further damage to your blood vessels, and the addictive ingredient nicotine also plays a large role in causing ED.

Drinking alcohol in excess can make it difficult to become erect, even if you aren’t diabetic or an ED sufferer. In the long term, binge drinking can be even more damaging.

By quitting these unhealthy habits (or at least reducing your use of them), you’re able to reduce your chances of developing ED from diabetes.

How can I treat ED as a diabetic?

If you are diabetic and having struggles with your sex life, there are several different types of treatment you can try:

Oral medications

Oral tablets such as Viagra are often the first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Suitable options for diabetic men include:

These medications are all types of PDE5 inhibitors. They are highly effective and work by regulating blood flow within certain parts of the body, including the penis.

However, they are only available to purchase with a prescription from a doctor.

If you want to buy ED medication over the counter at a pharmacy, you can buy a product called Viagra Connect. This medicine contains the active ingredient Sildenafil (but at a fixed dose of 50mg).

Treatments that aren’t oral tablets

If you don’t wish to take oral medication, you might consider the following non-pharmaceutical options:

  • penile pumps
  • penile injections
  • penile implants

Penile pumps, also known as vacuum erection devices (VED), draw blood into the penis by using a vacuum. They can help you achieve an erection for roughly 30 minutes at a time.

Some types of ED medication can be injected directly into the penis. They work in a similar way to oral tablets, so they could be a suitable option if you don’t like swallowing pills.

Lastly, you might consider getting penile implants. These are surgically inserted into the penis and help you achieve and maintain an erection. Whilst they can improve erectile function, they won’t increase your sex drive, or libido.

Alternative therapies

Lastly, you could also consider trying alternative remedies such as herbal Viagra. This is a term given to naturally occurring ingredients and supplements that are considered effective at treating ED.

Examples of ‘herbal Viagra’ include:

  • maca root powder
  • ginkgo
  • horny goat weed

Remember, these options aren’t necessarily going to work effectively for everyone who tries them. But, it may be worth trying them first before going on prescription meds.

Can I buy treatment online at euroClinix?

Yes, you can buy oral ED medication which is safe for diabetics here at euroClinix.

Simply answer a few quick questions to complete your online consultation. This information will then be checked by one of our UK doctors, who will prescribe you the correct medication if it is safe to do so.

Once approved, your medication will be sent straight to your door with free next-day delivery in discreet, unbranded packaging.

Looking for ED meds?

Click here

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 26-04-2024
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