The Link Between Erectile Dysfunction and Diabetes

Living with diabetes comes with numerous challenges, including the increased risk for erectile dysfunction (ED). Unfortunately, experiencing problems getting or maintaining a satisfying erection can cause even more issues, including frustration and embarrassment, which can worsen ED symptoms.

As a board-certified urologist and men’s health specialist, Mike Hsieh, MD, understands the impact ED can have on your life, self-confidence, and intimate relationships. While everyone experiences ED from time to time, it becomes increasingly more common to people with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes.

How erections work

An erection involves more than desire. Instead, it’s a complex process that requires healthy nerves and blood flow to the penis.

When you experience sexual arousal, nerves start stimulating the penis. In response, your brain and local nerves relax muscles in the two chambers that run along the length of your penis. These areas, known as the corpora cavernosa, contain a web of blood vessels that resemble a sponge.

As the corpora cavernosa relax, blood flows in and fills the open spaces within the tissue. This increases pressure, causing the penis to enlarge and become erect. But it doesn’t stop there. Your penis also contains tunica albuginea. This thin membrane surrounds the corpora cavernosa, which helps trap the blood flowing into your penis to sustain the erection. 

An erection stops when penile muscles contract, stopping blood flow into the penis and opening channels for it to leave the corpora cavernosa.

Diabetes and ED

Studies show that approximately 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes develop ED within 5-10 years of receiving a diagnosis. These rates only increase if you also have other medical conditions, such as heart disease.

Living with high blood sugar causes serious complications that can impact your sexual health. That’s because having too much sugar in your system for a prolonged period can damage delicate nerves and blood vessels, even the ones located in your penis.

As we mentioned above, an erection begins when nerves start the process. When these nerves sustain damage, it can make it harder to start the process of getting an erection. Similarly, poor blood flow to the penis can make it more difficult for your body to achieve or maintain a satisfying erection.

For some men, experiencing erectile or sexual dysfunction can occur before receiving a diabetes diagnosis.

Finding help

The good news is you don’t have to live with ED, even if you have diabetes. 

Dr. Hsieh takes a comprehensive approach to sexual health that involves your overall health, age, and lifestyle. Based on these components, he may recommend a combination of therapies, such as:

And if these techniques fall short, Dr. Hsieh can also help with more specialized treatments, such as vacuum pumps or penile implants. 

If you’ve noticed changes in your erections, Dr. Hsieh can make personalized recommendations to restore your sexual vitality. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Mike Hsieh, MD, today.

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