Erectile Dysfunction: A Concern for Men With Diabetes

IMAGE It is common for men to experience periodic erectile dysfunction (ED) In many, it can be a cause of embarrassment and concern. But for some men with diabetes , ED is a fact of daily life. The cause can be related to diabetic neuropathy , a nerve disorder that can disrupt the neural pathways responsible for creating and sustaining an erection. There can be are other reason causing ED in men with diabetes. ED may also be accompanied by impotence. Though they are related, they are not the same thing.

You've Got Nerves

If you have diabetes, complications can make sexual activity difficult. One of these, diabetic neuropathy , derails the brain signals that would normally speed along the nerves from the spinal cord to the erectile tissue of the penis. These nerve messages normally release nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes arteries in the penis, which allows increased blood flow and makes erection possible. Neuropathy disrupts the "erection messages" that are sent from the penis to the brain—for example, during physical stimulation of the penis. In other words, there is a communication breakdown, and that means no sex. Diabetic neuropathy can occur at any time, although the chances of it developing rise the longer you have diabetes. The risk of diabetic neuropathy increases in men who are over 40 years old, who smoke, or have a cardiovascular condition. It is also more common in men who are overweight .

Get a Diagnosis

Neuropathy isn't the only cause of ED in men with diabetes. Damage to blood vessels (caused by elevated blood glucose levels) also occurs over a period of several years, generally without symptoms. Many people who have had diabetes for a long time will also have vascular disease, which may diminish the flow of blood to the penis.In addition, hormonal imbalances, side effects of medications, and other physical problems that may or may not be associated diabetes can all lead to ED. The causes of ED also go beyond physical well-being. Psychological stress, too, can be a factor. Simply living with diabetes can be stressful enough in itself to affect sexual performance.Your doctor will gather information by performing a physical exam and a taking a thorough patient history. Blood tests may also be done to look for other medical problems contributing to the erection problems.

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