Diabetes and Impotence

Approximately two-thirds of men who suffer from diabetes and impotence are likely to develop impotence as much as fifteen years sooner than men who do not have diabetes. Periodic issues with erectile dysfunction, or ED, are common in men over fifty years old, but for men with diabetes, impotence is an ongoing complication involving impairment of blood vessels, blood flow and muscle function, caused by high levels of blood glucose.

However, diabetes may not be the sole cause of erectile dysfunction. Other underlying causes of ED include:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Medications
  • Insufficient levels of testosterone
  • Heavy cigarette smoking
  • Other health issues such as prostate cancer or kidney disease

Once your physician has ruled out all of these potential sources of ED, you have established a definite correlation between diabetes and impotence and can initiate appropriate treatment.

How Diabetes May Cause Impotence

In order for a man to achieve an erection, sufficient amounts of blood must flow into areas of the penis called the corpus spongiosum and corpora cavernosae. Diabetic males often lack sufficient intracavernosal amounts of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase. Because this substance acts as a neurotransmitter, facilitating blood flow into the penis, an inadequate supply effectively inhibits erections. Further, excess glucose causes atherosclerosis of penile veins and thus constrains blood flow.

Attaining an erection also requires neural inputs. Nerve impairment, which is often a complication of diabetes and impotence that is the result of excess glucose, promotes vascular insufficiency and hormonal inhibition. Men suffering from diabetes and ED often have smaller amounts of norepinephrine in the corpora cavernosae, which causes nerve impairment.

Treatment for Diabetes-Related Impotence

Many men take medications such as Cialis or Viagra for erectile dysfunction, but men with diabetes should avoid them. The ingredients in these medications exacerbate problems such as high blood pressure and the potential for heart attack or stroke. Men who suffer from diabetes and impotence should choose safer treatments that include:

  • Vacuum constriction devices
  • Intracavernous injection therapy
  • Intraurethral therapy
  • Sex therapy

Controlling Diabetes to Prevent Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetic men with ED can potentially reverse impotence by controlling diabetes with exercise, a healthy diet and, if necessary, the use of insulin injections or pills.

Food portions and the kinds of food consumed are important issues in a diabetic diet, which should include complex carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and unsaturated fats. Measuring eight-ounce servings of food and eating a certain number of these servings each day is an excellent method for regulating blood glucose and possibly eliminating impotence.

A daily diabetes diet might include eight-ounce servings of these foods:

  • Two to three servings of low-fat, no-sugar-added dairy products as a source of calcium and high quality protein, and other protein-rich food such as lean meats and seafood prepared with minimal fat
  • Five to six servings of complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest than simple carbs and thus avoid spikes in blood glucose
  • Three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables, which are high in fiber and thus slow the production of blood sugar
  • Two servings of fruit, particularly apples and other fruits containing pectin, which helps overcome insulin resistance
  • One to two servings of liquid, unsaturated fats (oils) to avoid cholesterol and trans fats

Exercise is also conducive to preventing ED, because using muscles and increasing muscle mass means the body will use more glucose, thus reducing insulin levels, particularly for those with Type 2 diabetes. Losing weight by dieting and exercise also lowers high blood pressure and facilitates blood flow throughout the body.

Testosterone and Diabetes

For older diabetic men experiencing impotence, lower testosterone levels may also affect the frequency of erectile dysfunction. In some studies, a decrease in testosterone following age fifty in men may be associated with muscle wasting, chronic fatigue and osteoporosis as well as ED. Testosterone therapy may help alleviate some symptoms of diabetes as well as helping diabetes and impotence issues.


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