It’s estimated that over four million people in the UK suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The condition, which causes high blood sugar levels, is related to a number of other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and miscarriage.
Because diabetes causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels it can also cause problems in the bedroom – up to 75% of men suffering from diabetes will be affected by erectile dysfunction (ED).
However, there is some good news: if you’re diabetic, properly managing your condition with medication and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the damage that leads to ED.
What causes diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 – the body is unable to produce insulin. This is usually the type you’re born with.
Type 2 – either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it has developed a resistance to insulin. This is the type most commonly developed during your lifetime. Risk factors include: obesity, a family history of diabetes, age, and certain medications..
Insulin is needed to move glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells, where it’s converted into energy. If the insulin in your body isn’t working properly, you’re at risk of having diabetes.
Symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
- urinating frequently
- feeling very thirsty
- feeling very tired
- suddenly losing weight
- genital itching or thrush
- slow-healing wounds
- blurred vision.
To find out whether you may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, visit your nearest LloydsPharmacy for a free test.
Why does diabetes cause erectile dysfunction?
To achieve a healthy erection, a man requires male hormones, sexual stimulation, and healthy blood vessels and nerves. In the case of poorly managed or undiagnosed diabetes, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves. This damages limits blood flow to the penis and reduces sensation in the sexual organs.
Diabetes can also lead to conditions like heart disease, which also increases your risk of having ED.
Other erectile dysfunction causes
ED can be caused by lifestyle factors such as eating an unhealthy diet that causes you to gain weight, smoking, and drinking too much. It can also be caused by other conditions or treatments such as:
- Heart disease (as mentioned above)
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- An overactive or underactive thyroid
- Depression or anxiety
- Injury to the penis
- Medicines such as beta-blockers, antidepressants and corticosteroids
If you do develop ED, it’s important to speak to a doctor about it, as it could be a sign of a condition that requires treatment, or a signal that it’s time to make some lifestyle changes.
Treatments for diabetes and erectile dysfunction
The two types of diabetes are managed slightly differently. However, it’s important to stick to your diabetes management plan and have regular reviews with your doctor. Managing your diabetes is a good way to manage the ED it has caused, however it’s not always easy.
- Type 1 requires regular insulin injections, or the use of an insulin pump. Blood sugar is regularly monitored, and high or low readings are treated by adjusting your diet and/or insulin dose. You may also need to take medication to counteract your increased risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
- Type 2 diabetes medications include metformin and insulin. However, this type is usually managed by making changes to your lifestyle. You will be advised to eat more healthily, quit smoking, drink less, exercise regularly and lose weight. This is similar to the advice for ED treatment, so could help both conditions.
- Erectile dysfunction can be treated in short term with a group of medicines called PDE-5 inhibitors. These tablets work by temporarily increasing blood flow to the penis. As long as you’re sexually aroused, this should enable a healthy erection. PDE-5 inhibitors are a safe treatment option for diabetic men, as they do not interact negatively with diabetic medicines such as insulin and metformin. The most famous PDE-5 inhibitor is Viagra, however others include Cialis and Levitra, which is thought to be slightly more effective for diabetics.
To find out more about erectile dysfunction, and the range of treatments available, visit the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor Erectile Dysfunction Clinic.