Image of overweight man transforming into fit man - symbolic of treating type 2 diabetes to help erectile dysfunction issues

Many men of all ages live with erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction or impotence is the diagnosis made when a man has trouble getting an erection, or maintaining the erection long enough to perform during sexual intercourse. [1]

Erectile dysfunction rarely appears on its own. Rather, it is generally a symptom of other health problems that are occurring.

Impotence can be the result of a variety of health issues, both physical and psychological. Some of the highest risk factors for developing impotence are heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol and diabetes.

There are several lifestyle choices that can *increase a man’s risk of developing erectile dysfunction including not getting enough exercise, smoking and high alcohol consumption. [2] Depression, anxiety and anger are psychological triggers for erectile dysfunction. The medications prescribed for ailments like depression, diabetes and heart disease can also lead to a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction is far more common among older men than it is in younger men. Studies have shown that at least 10 percent of men between 40 and 70 are living with severe erectile dysfunction and an additional 25 percent of men are living with erectile dysfunction that could be more accurately be classified as moderate. [3] [4] However, this prevalence of impotence in older men is rarely an unavoidable side effect of getting older. To repeat, the problem of erectile dysfunction is strongly related to other health problems.

Today we will be discussing how one certain health problem – diabetes – can affect a man’s sexual life by causing him to be unable to achieve an erection.

What Is Diabetes?

According to the World Health organization, diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. Studies show that globally there are nearly 300 million people living with diabetes. [5] Type 2 diabetes is generally diagnosed in people over the age of 40 while Type 1 diabetes is more prevalent in younger people. Around 90% of people living with diabetes have Type 2.

Your pancreas creates a chemical called insulin to help your body regulate your blood sugar and use it for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells cannot properly respond to the insulin which causes your pancreas to create even more insulin. Your body’s cells continue to ignore this influx of insulin and, eventually, your pancreas can’t keep up with creating enough insulin. When this happens, your blood sugar can rise to dangerous levels.

When you have too much sugar running through your veins, this can lead to chronic health problems. Diabetes is associated with high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and sexual dysfunction.

Relation Between Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

Studies show that among men with Type 2 diabetes, over 50 percent of them will develop erectile dysfunction. [6] The main reason diabetes is related to erectile dysfunction is because diabetes is directly connected to your nervous and vascular system.

Diabetes causes neuropathy (damage to the nerves) throughout the body and this includes the nerves to the sexual organ. If the nerves of your penis have been damaged by diabetes, it is likely that your brain and your penis will have difficulty communicating, which will lead to erectile dysfunction.

Diabetes is also related to atherosclerosis which is when your blood vessels harden or narrow. When this happens, blood flow is disrupted which can also lead to erectile dysfunction. [7]

Having proper blood flow is important for sexual function. To get an erection a man must first be stimulated by something. When this happens, the brain sends sexual hormones like testosterone throughout the body and begins pumping blood to the sexual organ. The arteries and spongy tissue of the penis will fill with this blood causing the penis to harden. The veins in the penis then temporarily prevent the blood from flowing out resulting in a sustained erection.

If blood sugar levels are not under control – as happens with diabetes – then the body doesn’t produce enough of the chemicals necessary to facilitate this process. A percentage of men with diabetes have low levels of testosterone which prevents them from achieving proper sexual function. [8] In addition, high blood sugar levels *lower the presence of nitric oxide in the blood which prevents the sexual organ from getting hard as it is supposed to. [9]

Anything that negatively impacts the blood vessels will also have an adverse impact on sexual health. Since diabetes causes injury to the endothelial system in the body, it hurts a man’s chances of obtaining an erection or sustaining that erection long enough for intercourse.

Treatment Options

To treat your diabetes, you will need to speak with your doctor. They can get you on the right track to *reducing the workload on your pancreas and getting your blood sugar levels back on track.

The treatment of diabetes relies heavily on the things you do. Following a healthy diet, *losing weight and getting adequate exercise are all things you can do to *improve your health while living with diabetes.

There is no shortage of treatment options for erectile dysfunction either. Getting your diabetes under control could help the issue without the need for other interventions but this isn’t always the case. Your doctor can prescribe medications that can help you get your sexual function back.


Much research is being done on the prevalence of sexual disorders like erectile dysfunction so the body of knowledge and treatment options are ever expanding.

Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common side effects of diabetes but it is also highly treatable.


[1] Singh JC, Devasia A, Gnanaraj L, Chacko KN (2005) Erectile Dysfunction. Natl Med J India 18(3): 139-43

[2] Bacon CG, Mittleman MA, Kawachi I, Giovannucci E, Glaser DB, Rimm EB (2006) A Prospective Study of Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction. J Urol 176(1): 210-21

[3] Boston University School of Sexual Medicine (2002) Epidemiology of ED

[4] Johannes CB, Araujo AB, Feldman HA, Derby CA, Kleinman KP, McKinlay JB (2000) Incidence of Erectile Dysfunction in Men 40 to 69 Years Old: Longitudinal Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol 163(2): 460-3

[5] King H, Aubert RE, Herman WH (1998) Global Burden of Diabetes, 1995-2025: Prevalence, numerical Estimates and Projections. Diabetes Care 21(9): 1414-31

[6] Kouidrat Y, Pixxol D, Cosco T, Thompson T, Carnaghi M, Bertoldo A, Solmi M, Stubbs B, Veronsee N (2017) High Prevalence of Erectile Dysfunction in Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 145 Studies. Diabet Med 34(9): 1185-1192

[7] Maiti R, Agrawal NK (2007) Atherosclerosis in Diabetes mellitus: Role of Inflammation. Indian J Med Sci 62(50: 292-306

[8] Grossman M (2011) Low Testosterone in Men with Type 2 Diabetes: Significance and Treatment. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(8): 2341-53

[9] Hoshiyama M, Li B, Yao J, Harada T, Morioka T, Oite T (2003) Effect of High Glucose on Nitic Oxide Production and Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Protein Expression in Human Glomerular Endothelial Cells. Nephron Exp Nephrol 95(2): e62-8

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