ED Links to Diabetes
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, the odds are high you’ll also face erectile dysfunction earlier than men who do not have diabetes – probably 10 to 15 years sooner.
And if your diabetes is Type 2 – the sort diagnosed later in life and often related to other health issues like weight and exercise levels – you’ll be more likely to also have to deal with ED.
That’s because erectile dysfunction is more common among men with type 2 diabetes (about 46 per cent have ED) than among those with type 1 (32 percent).
Diabetes and Low Testosterone
Getting a regular strong erection depends on:
- healthy blood vessels
- a responsive nerve network
- good testosterone levels
- and a healthy sex drive
Diabetes can cause damage in all of these inter-related health systems. Even if your testosterone levels and sex drive are strong, your body may still not be able to respond suitably.
However some scientists describe a “hidden epidemic” of low testosterone levels in men with Type 2 diabetes.
University of Melbourne research shows men with Type 2 diabetes are also a third more likely to have low testosterone and may be linked to insulin resistance. Another Australian study indicates low testosterone in diabetic men is different from normal aging.
University of Adelaide Professor of Medicine Gary Wittert says the study of nearly 1400 men showed the testosterone decline in men with Type 2 diabetes was linked more closely to obesity, diabetes and depression than aging.
The study, supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, showed stopping smoking also lowered testosterone levels, but the benefits of quitting were much greater than the impact it had on testosterone levels.
Low Testosterone Increases Diabetes Risk
To further complicate the issue of diabetes and low testosterone, a University of Edinburgh study suggests low testosterone increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Men with low testosterone are more likely to become obese, but the Edinburgh study showed low testosterone was a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes no matter what the man weighed.
Testosterone helps reduce body fat and improves the way their bodies handle insulin, so low testosterone introduces a new complication for men who suffer type 2 diabetes, because it’s not just ED and high blood sugar levels that can result.
A third of men with diabetes are also at risk of:
- High fat mass
- Low muscle mass
- Low bone density
All of these conditions contribute to low sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Diabetes and Lack of Sleep
Many men with Type 2 diabetes find their sleep disturbed because high blood sugar levels cause more frequent urination – and they will find themselves up and down to the bathroom during the night.
Then you’re feeling tired the next day so you have a high sugar snack to give yourself an energy boost – and reinforce the spiking blood sugar levels.
Combine that with research that shows lack of sleep also reduces testosterone levels and you can see why many health educators are describing diabetes as a disorder related to lifestyle choice rather than a “disease.” And why erectile dysfunction and diabetes are so closely related.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, because lack of sleep can also put the body into a “pre-diabetic state.” Lack of sleep can also kill a man’s sex drive.
How Diabetes Affects Your Sex Life
David Spero is a nurse and expert on living with chronic illness who writes a blog on the Self-Management of Diabetes.
He says that in addition to the erectile dysfunction issues that arise from diabetes including:
- low testosterone
- nerve impairment
- and cardio-vascular impairment
There is a psychological impact as well.
He describes this as “the sex problem no one will talk about” – the “secondary dysfunctions” that occur when diabetes symptoms like fatigue, pain, or numbness interfere with sexuality.
“There are psychological issues that often come along with diabetes: depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem,” he says.
“There are the side effects of medicines used for depression or for high blood pressure. Some people experience loss of desire. And finally there are the difficulties people with diabetes sometimes have finding romance in the first place.”
How Diabetic Men Can Improve ED Problems
Overcoming the links between diabetes and erectile dysfunction may be a health challenge for many men, but simple life style changes can reverse erectile dysfunction and have long lasting positive effects on your overall health.
University of Adelaide researchers found that modest weight loss rapidly reversed sexual and urinary problems that plague men with diabetes. And the effects lasted for as long as a year.
An Irish study has also shown that men who lost weight boosted their testosterone levels by 50 per cent.
Changes To Restore Erectile Function & Control Diabetes
- Control blood sugar levels through regular exercise (about 30mins of moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week) and diet
- Lose even small amounts of weight
- Regularly get 7 hours of sleep per night
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
It may be a challenge to get started, but lifestyle changes can make a big difference in overcoming the erectile dysfunction associated with Type 2 diabetes.