More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. About seven million of those people don't know they have it. Symptoms of untreated diabetes include:
- frequent urination,
- feeling very thirsty,
- feeling very hungry,
- extreme fatigue,
- blurry vision, and
- a tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands and/or feet.
Believe it or not, erectile dysfunction (ED) can also be a symptom of diabetes. In fact, half of men diagnosed with diabetes experience ED within ten years of their diagnosis.
We see quite a few men for erectile dysfunction that end up being diagnosed with diabetes after their visit with us. Most people don't think about the penis being an indicator of other, underlying health issues, but it really is a good barometer.
Jim Hotaling, MD, Urologist
Does Diabetes Cause ED?
In order to get an erection, men need healthy blood vessels and nerves. High blood sugar levels, a symptom of diabetes, can damage blood vessels as well as the nerves that control sexual stimulation. Because diabetes can cause the inner lining of blood vessels to function abnormally, it can affect blood flow to the penis, which is how you get and maintain an erection.
Can ED Caused by Diabetes Be Reversed?
Managing your diabetes can stop the progression of ED, but sometimes symptoms don't improve because of nerve damage. There are many treatment options for ED if you don't see an improvement after getting your diabetes under control.
Diabetes & ED Treatment
Oral medications typically work about 50 percent of the time for men with diabetes. Penile pumps are also good options, if medications don't work. Other men may choose injection therapy, which is a treatment where you inject the penis with a small needle when you want an erection.
Penile implants are another ED treatment. Implants last 12-15 years on average.
All of these treatment options have pros and cons. Men should consider what works best for their lifestyles when chatting with their provider about the best choice for them.
"Erectile dysfunction is frustrating and stressful for men and their partners. It's not something people should 'just live with,'" Dr. Hotaling said. "If you're struggling with ED, talk to your health care provider. Sometimes it's an unrelated problem. Other times, it's linked to something more serious, like diabetes or heart disease. Regardless, it's worth getting treated."