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Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 Learning Center

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Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2

man pricking finger for glucose test

Though diabetes and ED (Erectile Dysfunction) are two separate conditions, they tend to go hand-in-hand. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, men with diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. In many cases, problems with achieving or maintaining an erection is an early clue that you may be diabetic, particularly in men 45 and under.

The poorly controlled blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves. Damage to the nerves that control sexual stimulation and response can impede a man’s ability to achieve an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. As well, reduced blood flow from damaged blood vessels also contributes to erectile dysfunction.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that increase your chances of complications from diabetes, including ED.

  • Uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Medications associated with ED

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce the Risk of ED

There are lifestyle changes you can make to not only help you with your diabetes, but also to lower your risk of erectile dysfunction.

  • Control your blood sugar through diet. Eating a diabetes-friendly diet will help you to control blood sugar levels and lessen the amount of damage to your blood vessels and nerves. A proper diet geared at keeping glucose levels in check will also improve your energy levels and moods which can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption. More than two drinks per day can damage your blood vessels and worsen ED. Being even mildly intoxicated can also make it hard to achieve an erection and interfere with sexual function.
  • Stop smoking. Along with all of the other health reasons that you hear about, smoking narrows the blood vessels and also decreases levels of nitric oxide which decreases blood flow to the penis, worsening erectile dysfunction.
  • Get active. Adding regular exercise to your routine can help you to not only control your blood glucose levels, but it can also improve circulation, lower stress levels, and improve your energy levels—all of which help combat ED. 
  • Get more sleep. Fatigue is often to blame for sexual problems. Ensuring that you get enough sleep each night will help you lower your risk of struggling with erectile dysfunction.
  • Keep your stress level down. Stress interferes with sexual arousal and your ability to get an erection. Exercise, meditation, and setting aside time to do the things that you enjoy can help to keep your stress levels down and lessen your risk of ED.

Talking to Your Doctor

It may not be easy to bring up your issues with ED to your doctor, but reluctance to do so will only prevent you from getting the help that you need. If you are diabetic and suffering from erectile dysfunction then your doctor needs to be made aware of what’s going on in order to diagnose and treat any underlying issues that could be causing it. Your doctor can help you get your blood sugar controlled and show you the right steps to manage your Type 2 diabetes and also work with you to treat ED. They may be able to prescribe medication as well as refer you to a professional that specializes in sexual problems. Several treatment options for ED exist. Speak to your doctor about those options and which one may be right for you so that you can get your sex life back on track.

Content licensed from:

Written by: James Roland and Adrienne Santos-Longhurst
Published on Oct 21, 2016
Medically reviewed on Oct 21, 2016 by [Ljava.lang.Object;@49256dfe

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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