Diabetes and impotence

There is a relationship between diabetes and erectile dysfunction.  Male impotence occurs more commonly in men who have diabetes then other men but it is probably still a minority of men with diabetes who experience it.  This is because the number of individuals who suffer from diabetes continues to rise each and every year while the number of men who suffer from impotence related to diabetes rises only in relationship to the overall number.

There are two types of diabetes.  The first type, type 1 diabetes, was once called insulin-dependent diabetes.  Type 1 diabetics do not make insulin in the pancreas at all and so they require regular injections of insulin to survive.  This type of diabetes was once thought to be a problem only for children and was also called juvenile diabetes.  The second type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, can be called non-insulin dependent diabetes and is actually much more common than type 1.  Type 2 diabetics do not produce enough insulin to meet the body's requirement or the insulin is not processed correctly by the body.  Individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes are encouraged to use alternative methods, including exercise and diet control, to decrease the amount of insulin required to control their disease.

In order to more fully understand how diabetes affects the ability of a man to have an erection it is first important to understand how an erection happens.  In the shaft of the penis there are two chambers of spongy tissue called the corpora carernosa which are mainly responsible for erections.  Just below them is another chamber and running through all of that is the urethra which carries both semen and urine. 

During an erection nerve signals from the brain and ending in the penis will cause the smooth muscle of the chambers to relax and the arteries to dilate or open wider.  This allows a rush of blood to fill the empty space.  At the same time pressure on the venus system traps the blood in the penis causing an erection.  When the excitement ends, the smooth muscle contracts taking pressure off the vessels and allowing the blood to flow back out.

Unfortunately men who suffer from uncontrolled diabetes sufferer from a number of problems which all come together to cause erectile dysfunction.  Depending upon the researcher and the study, numbers indicate that anywhere between 35% and 75% of men with diabetes will develop some degree of erectile dysfunction.

High blood sugar causes the blood vessels and nerves to become damaged which affects many processes in the body.  Damage to the vessels that block the release of nitric oxide, essential as a chemical messenger to initiate an erection, will cause male impotence.  A lack of nitric oxide will result in constricted blood vessels which reduces the flow of blood to the penis.

The American Diabetic Association estimates that 73% of adults with diabetes also have high blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medication.  The combination of high pressure and diabetes will also increase the risk for blood vessel damage.

High cholesterol also appears to be common in individuals who suffer from diabetes.  The "bad" cholesterol, LDL, will interfere with the ability of the blood vessels to dilate.  These high cholesterol levels also result in fatty deposits in the arterial walls which reduce blood flow.  Other choices which men make may also reduce blood flow such as smoking and alcohol intake.

Unfortunately the reasons for erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes does not end there.  High blood sugar also causes nerve damage necessary for the initiation of an erection and may also negatively impact the secretion of male hormones.  Other factors also include a strong self-esteem.  This means that a man who has experienced some degree of erectile dysfunction, also has diabetes and makes the link between the two may also suffer from a degree of psychological causes and stress related to the condition.

Fortunately there are treatments for men who have diabetes and are having trouble achieving were maintaining an erection.  These treatments range from oral medications to minimally invasive procedures or even surgery.  However, in order to adequately treat the condition men must first admit there is a problem and then consult with their primary care physician in order to initiate the process.

It is important for both men and women to recognize the essential part of her relationship that sexuality plays.  When there is a problem with male impotence or erectile dysfunction it also has a negative impact on a relationship, sometimes even leading to divorce.


Diabetes UK: Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

DrMirkin: Impotence and Men with Diabetes

Western Journal of Medicine: Treatable Impotence in Diabetic Patients

Diabetes New Zealand: Diabetes and mens Sexual Health

Living with Diabetes: Diabetes and Impotence

Joslin Diabetes Center: Sexual Dysfunction and Diabetes
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