Diabetes patients are at a high risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). Although erectile dysfunction becomes more prominent with age, particularly in those over 65, research suggests that diabetes patients are at a higher risk of suffering from ED far earlier than those without the disease, sometimes up to 15 years earlier. With this pronounced risk, there are complications pertaining to available treatment. Here we will outline what treatments are available for those suffering from both diabetes and erectile dysfunction, but first, we will outline why the two are so prominently linked.
ED is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection during sexual intercourse. Caused by a multitude of factors — from psychological to physical — the dysfunction is mostly associated with the vascular process (the channel and flow of blood to the penis through veins) when achieving an erection. As a result, cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes can dramatically help to onset erectile dysfunction. As diabetes causes high blood sugar levels, the triggering of blood flow to the penis can be affected by nerve or blood vessel damage (as a result of diabetes).
It is understood that up to half of diabetes sufferers also experience erectile dysfunction. In fact, erectile dysfunction is a sign of many different health problems and is often the first symptom men notice which leads to a diabetes diagnosis. What is more, many blood pressure drugs taken to relieve diabetes symptoms can also affect the strength or frequency of a man’s erections. This means that men have to be doubly cautious when tackling the two problems. The good news is that having diabetes does not simply mean that you will be stuck with poor erections; many lifestyle changes and treatments can help alleviate both problems.
One of the greatest treatments in your day-to-day life is a change of lifestyle. If you smoke, drink, are overweight or do little exercise, this all needs to change. This goes not just for diabetes sufferers but for all men experiencing erection difficulties. A healthy and active body promotes vascular health and concurrently sexual health.
If you have already made these effective changes, there are many prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can be taken to help achieve an erection. Oral medication such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) can all be taken by diabetes patients, provided that you properly consult your doctor first. These three medications all work in similar ways, effectively helping to increase the blood flow to the penis for a stronger erection, enabling a man to both achieve and sustain an erection during the period of sexual intercourse. They are all to be taken 30 minutes before sex, with effects that last from between 4 – 5 hours.
Given the side effects related to these drugs, it is important that your doctor is made aware of your medical history and any other medications that you are currently on. All three of these drugs are well tolerated in most men and shouldn’t be affected by diabetes or other medications taken (such as metformin) for that disease. More rare treatments for erectile dysfunction include the use of a penis pump to increase the blood flow to the penis and, at the most extreme, penis implants.
It is always worth taking oral medication and making lifestyle changes first. Alternatively, herbal medicines (such as ginseng, maca and gingko) may also help; they have an unverified — but harmless — relation to erectile strength that has been anecdotally useful to some, with some positive scientific research.