Erectile dysfunction aka impotence is basically a disorder where a man is unable to achieve and/or maintain his erection for a time period that is long enough to fully engage in sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction (ED in short) has a variety of causes, which may be psychological, physical, or even both.
Believe it or not, diabetes is one of the top causes responsible for erectile dysfunction. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that approximately 35% -75% of all men who suffer from diabetes are most likely to develop erectile dysfunction in the near future.
Furthermore, they are likely to develop the condition over 10-15 years before men who don't suffer from diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Help Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Diabetes is in fact one of the top causes for erectile dysfunction because diabetes tends to damage the nerves as well as the blood supply which go into the penis – both of which are necessary to achieve and maintain the erection.
An ill-managed case of diabetes often leads to erectile dysfunction courtesy the adverse effects it has on the bloodstream.
When any man gets sexually aroused, his body releases a chemical known as nitric oxide into his bloodstream. The nitric oxide then allows the muscles and arteries present within the the penis to ease up. This lets more blood flow inside the penis, and allow the man to achieve an erection.
Men who suffer from diabetes often find themselves struggling with the swings of their blood-sugar levels, especially when their condition is ill-managed.
In cases when blood sugar levels become too high, a lesser quantity of nitric oxide gets produced, which entails lesser blood flowing to the penis – certainly not enough to achieve or maintain an erection. Those suffering from diabetes have often been found having lower nitric oxide levels in their blood.
Erectile Dysfunction Causes (Other Than Diabetes)
The following are causal factors of erectile dysfunction other than diabetes:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Hormonal issues like low testosterone levels
- Psychological issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety, among others
- Problems of the nervous system such as brain or spinal cord damage, among others
- Bad habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and using illegal drugs
- Certain specialized medications like those taken for treating depression and high blood pressure
- Any sort of pelvic injury or bowel, bladder or prostate surgery which may (even if temporarily) damage the nerves that are connect to the penis. Such kinds of damage may lead to ED.
Tests And Diagnosis
In order to identify whether or not the patient suffers from erectile dysfunction, the doctor will administer some of the tests mentioned below:
- Administering blood tests in order to check the blood sugar level (a raised one often indicates diabetes)
- Administering hormone tests in order to measure hormone levels such as those of testosterone (among others)
- Administering nervous system tests like sweat and blood pressure to identify and/or rule out any damage that may have been caused to the blood vessels, sweat glands and heart
- Urinalysis in order to find out if the urine has any sugar content (this is a major symptom of diabetes)
- Conducting a physical exam to study the genitals and assess the nerve-reflexes in the penis as well as the legs
- Examining the patient's medical history to find out why and under which circumstances does the patient face trouble with erections
- Administering a sexual health questionnaire (SHIM) to find out the presence as well as the severity of erectile dysfunction.
- Injecting drugs in the penis in order to verify whether the blood supply is normal.
Lifestyle Changes That Accompany Erectile Dysfunction
Painful as the condition is, erectile dysfunction, especially cases that are caused by diabetes are understood far better today than they were earlier. One can in fact reduce or even prevent erectile dysfunction by keeping their diabetes under control.
Other than that, preventive measures like ceasing smoking and reducing the intake of alcohol will allow people to considerably lessen the risk of getting erectile dysfunction.
Other changes in lifestyle that can help manage erectile dysfunction are:
Regular Exercise And Following A Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
According to several studies, men who moved from an unhealthy diet to a diet that has low saturated fat and a high fiber content along with the right amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and regularly exercised every week had improved their existing condition of erectile dysfunction without having to resort to prescription drugs.
Losing (Extra) Weight
Several different studies have shown that a little weight loss can greatly improve sexual desire and erectile function among men who suffer from diabetes. They found that the men who had lost weight had higher levels of testosterone along with a better quality of blood flow, which in turn resulted in better erections.
Reducing Stress Wherever Possible
Needless to say, erectile dysfunction can easily cause tension and stress to build up within a relationship. Even if the condition has physical roots, counseling can help both the patient, as well as his partner. Furthermore, those suffering from ED must always try to make time to relax and ensure that they get adequate sleep every night.
According to a new study, supplements that contain amino acids, namely l-citruline and I-arginine can help improve erectile dysfunction. These amino acids significantly increase amount of nitric acid produced in the body, which in turn increases the blood flow in the penis. As already mentioned, men who suffer from diabetes often have low nitric oxide levels in their body.
Treatment For Erectile Dysfunction
While there are a wide variety of options for treating erectile dysfunction, the way in which erectile dysfunction is treated is highly dependent upon the cause of its occurrence. This is applicable to men who suffer from diabetes-induced erectile dysfunction as well as men who suffer from it due to other causes.
To control the condition, the doctors may alter the dosage, switch or even even remove any prescription medication which can contribute to it.
Erectile dysfunction is most commonly treated with the help of oral tablets. The tablets have indeed been proven to work well with several men who suffer from diabetes by restoring their normal sexual function. The general group of drugs which are used in treating erectile dysfunction are called PDE-5 inhibitors.
The most commonly-prescribed oral pills for treating erectile dysfunction are as follows:
- Sildenafil (Viagra)
- Vardenafil (Levitra)
- Tadalafil (Cialis)
- Avanafil (Spedra)
These medicines help achieve and keep an erection as they increase the amount blood flow that goes to the penis.
These must be taken at least 30 – 60 minutes before engaging in sexual intercourse, and need sexual stimulation in order to be fully effective.
Apart from oral tablets, there now exist various alternative methods of treating erectile dysfunction. These include:
Also known as testosterone replacement therapy, this method is ideal for men with erectile dysfunction who have low testosterone levels.
Penile Injection Therapy
This method of treatment involves injecting alprostadil (Caverject) straight in the penis before sexual intercourse. The hormone increases the amount of blood supplied into the penis, and helps the penis achieve and keep an erection. It is ideal for men who have a history of ill response to therapy involving oral drugs.
Involving the use of some external apparatus, this therapy involves a plastic tube which is attached to a pump that is placed on the penis. As the pump sucks out all the air from the tube, blood gets drawn to the penis, making it erect. Finally, a ring is placed on the penis' base to let the erection last for the duration of intercourse.
A treatment that is used only when all of the other options for treatment have failed to work, this involves some major surgery, wherein an artificial inflatable rod is transplanted in the penis in order to keep it erect for the purpose of intercourse.
When it comes to erectile dysfunction, the psychological factors are just as important (if not more so) than the physical. If the patient's erectile dysfunction has its roots in psychological conditions like depression and/or anxiety, or even other psychological disorders (such as ADHD or bipolar disorder), proper counseling can help the patient's condition to a great extent.
Diabetes & Erectile Dysfunction Final Words
Erectile dysfunction is a very discomforting and painful condition where a man is unable to achieve and/or maintain an erection long enough to engage in sexual intercourse. It gives rise to tremendous dissatisfaction and suffocation in both the man and his partner.
Erectile dysfunction has a number of causes. Diabetes is, however one of the major causes, since the high blood sugar level often prevents blood from flowing to the penis, which is instrumental for producing an erection.
That said, it is still possible to manage erectile dysfunction by treating diabetes. By following a balanced and healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress properly, one can control diabetes, and by extension erectile dysfunction as well.