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Diabetes And Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetes and erectile dysfunction

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Diabetes can cause ED because it can damage the blood supply to the penis and the nerves that control an erection.

When a man becomes sexually aroused, a chemical called nitric oxide is released into his bloodstream. This nitric oxide tells the arteries and the muscles in the penis to relax, which allows more blood to flow into the penis. This gives the man an erection.

Men with diabetes struggle with blood sugar level swings, especially if their condition isn't managed poorly.

When their blood sugar levels get too high, less nitric oxide is produced. This can mean that there is not enough blood flowing into the penis to get or keep an erection. Low levels of nitric oxide are often found in those with diabetes.

What causes ED in men with diabetes?

The connection between diabetes and ED is related to your circulation and nervous system. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels 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. Reduced blood flow from damaged blood vessels can also contribute to ED.

Risk factors for erectile dysfunction

There are several risk factors that can increase your chance of diabetes complications, including ED. You may be more at risk if you:

  • have poorly managed blood sugar
  • are stressed
  • have anxiety
  • have depression
  • eat a poor diet
  • aren’t active
  • are obese
  • smoke
  • drink excessive amounts of alcohol
  • have uncontrolled hypertension
  • have an abnormal blood lipid profile
  • take medications that list ED as a side effect
  • take prescription drugs for high blood pressure, pain, or depression

Diagnosing erectile dysfunction

If you notice a change in the frequency or duration of your erections, tell your doctor or make an appointment with a urologist. It may not be easy to bring up these issues with your doctor, but reluctance to do so will only prevent you from getting the help that you need.

Your doctor can diagnose ED by reviewing your medical history and assessing your symptoms. They will likely perform a physical exam to check for possible nerve problems in the penis or testicles. Blood and urine tests can also help diagnose problems such as diabetes or low testosterone.

They may be able to prescribe medication, as well as refer you to a healthcare professional specializing in sexual dysfunction. Several treatment options exist for ED. Your doctor can help you find the best option for you.

How Diabetes Causes ED

Human sexual response requires several different body functions to work properly and together: nerves, blood vessels, hormones, and psyche. Unfortunately, diabetes—and even the treatment for diabetes—can affect many of these functions.

  • Nerves: One of the most common complications of diabetes is neuropathy, or nerve damage. Erection is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system, but orgasm and ejaculation are controlled by the sympathetic system. Neuropathy to either system can cause ED.
  • Blood Vessels: Diabetes damages blood vessels, especially the smallest blood vessels such as those in the penis. Diabetes can also cause heart disease and other circulatory problems. Proper blood flow is absolutely crucial to achieving erection. “Erection is a hydraulic phenomenon that occurs involuntarily,” says Arturo Rolla, MD, of Harvard University School of Medicine. “Nobody can will an erection!” Anything that limits or impairs blood flow can interfere with the ability to achieve an erection, no matter how strong one’s sexual desire.
  • Hormones: Diabetes often causes kidney disease, and kidney disease, in turn, can cause chemical changes in the type and amount of hormones one’s body secretes, including the hormones involved in sexual response.
  • Psyche: Psychological issues can cause a diminished sex drive, but they can also lead to ED even when sex drive is fine. ED can follow major life changes, stressful events, relationship difficulties, or even the fear of ED itself. The physiological changes associated with fear can themselves cause ED!
  • Medications: About 25 percent of ED cases are caused by drugs. Many medications, including common medicines prescribed for diabetes and its complications, can cause ED. The most common offenders are blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, and cimetidine (an ulcer drug). In addition, over-the-counter medications, including certain eye drops and nose drops, have been associated with ED. That does not mean you should stop taking these medications! Rather, you should discuss them with your doctor to determine whether a different dosage, an alternate medicine, or additional treatments will resolve the ED.

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