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Diabetes and Sexual Health in Men: Understanding the Connection

Diabetes is a leading cause of sexual health issues in people, along with hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking.  It can affect nerve function and blood flow to any place in the body.  One area that can often be affected is the genitals.  “In men, this can commonly manifest as erectile dysfunction,” says Kenneth Snow, M.D., Joslin’s Acting Chief of Adult Diabetes.

Men with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to have sexual issues than those in good control.  Men who have good control of their diabetes can still have issues, according to Dr. Snow, but they are more likely to be mild and responsive to therapy.

Diabetes Complications and Sexual Health

The biggest cause of sexual issues for men is nerve and artery damage in the genital area, which disrupts blood flow and can cause erectile dysfunction.  Erectile dysfunction is known to occur in over one-half of men who’ve had diabetes for 10 years.

Studies have shown that men with erectile dysfunction and diabetes are also more likely to have heart disease, because the risk factors for erectile dysfunction are the same as for coronary artery disease.  “The same problems that lead to decreased blood flow in the arteries in the penis, lead to blockages in the arteries of the heart,” Dr. Snow says.

Other sexual health issues can include:

  • Decreased libido – often stemming from depression or low levels of testosterone
  • Premature/delayed ejaculation

Maintaining Sexual Health with Diabetes

Complications and sexual issues can be avoided by taking proper care of your diabetes.  Keep your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control, Dr. Snow says.

Along with properly managing your diabetes, other options for treatment can include:

  • Oral medications, including Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra
  • Mechanical methods, such as vacuum pumps and constriction rings
  • Surgical methods, like a penile implant
  • Meeting with a mental health professional

Seek treatment early, once you start noticing problems.  Rather than waiting until they become severe, early problems are much easier to treat and are more successfully treated.

Page last updated: August 01, 2014