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Dealing with Erectile Dysfunction for Diabetics

With uncontrolled diabetes come complications. Men with diabetes have to deal with serious health consequences of this disease, many of whom must also contend with the fact that they wouldn’t be able to keep it up if they couldn’t keep their blood sugar down.

Erectile dysfunction (ED)—a condition in which a man is unable to maintain an erection firm enough for sex—is a common yet not openly discussed topic in diabetes treatment. According to the 2005 study by Thethi and colleagues published in Clinical Diabetes, between 35 and 75 percent of men with diabetes suffer from this condition. Another study by Romeo et al. published in the Journal of Urology in 2000 has found that men with diabetes will experience ED 5-10 years earlier than their nondiabetic counterparts.

What, then, can be done to help men deal with ED? The risk factors for ED are the same as those for cardiovascular disease (i.e., high-salt and -fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking). Thethi et aL added that ED might be the first warning sign of underlying cardiovascular problems, especially for men with diabetes. Therefore, diagnosing and treating this condition are important steps in the treatment of diabetes itself, and of cardiovascular disease in the long run.

Below is a list of dos and don’ts to help men with diabetes deal with ED.

Talk to your doc. Admitting problems with sexual function may be embarrassing to many, but keeping ED to yourself won’t get you anywhere.

Instead, muster enough courage to tell your doctor what you’re experiencing. You’ll be surprised by how much help he or she can provide you. The causes of ED are rather complex and that only by conducting a full checkup will your doctor be able to pinpoint the exact cause(s) of your ED.

Practice a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, watching your diet, and being physically
active are among the best treatment modalities for diabetes itself and, in turn, for ED. In fact, evidence proves that ED tends to improve when the level of blood sugar is better controlled. If diabetes is kept at bay, so will ED.

Find time to relax. We may experience stress as often as we experience hunger (or even more). Stress and fatigue can cause our body to break down and increase risk for ED. It is therefore wise to keep stress under control by evaluating and prioritizing your tasks, setting realistic expectations for yourself, and asking for help when you need it. Taking time off every now and then will also help. You’ll be surprised how efficient you would become after a restful sleep. When stress becomes too much to handle, a psychologist or other mental healthcare provider can help you find ways to manage that. This is especially important as patients with diabetes are at higher risk for depression than nondiabetic people.


Self-medicate. Several anti-ED medications have been introduced in the last few years. These include sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). However, it is extremely important that you consult your doctor before taking these. Studies have shown that anti-ED medications may lower blood pressure (hypotension), and should be avoided when taking heart medications such as nitrates. Your doctor will perform a thorough examination before determining if these medications are safe for you.

Smoke. Cigarette smoking narrows the blood vessels and increases the risk for ED. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to have ED—yet another reason to kick the habit.

Drink too much alcohol. Heavy alcohol intake (more than 2 drinks a day for men) can depress your nervous system and damage nerves in the long run leading to ED. If you take blood sugar-lowering medication, alcohol can also cause your blood sugar to dip dangerously low, so ask your dot’s permission before you drink.

Given the prevalence of diabetes, it is safe to say that a great number of men also suffer from ED. However, many of these men do not seek medical help. Instead of ignoring the problem and dismissing it as part of aging, seek the doctor’s help to come up with a better solution for this complex problem. After all, a healthy sex life is an important part of well-being.

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