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Guide to Diabetes

Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence) ED In Diabetes 

As you get older there are many changes that can occur in your health and diabetes can play a part. It is important to look after your sexual health and take precautions from sexually transmitted diseases.

Complications with sexual health are not limited to women but men can also experience difficulties associated with diabetes when it comes to sex, such as erectile dysfunction or impotence. Thrush is also common in men too.

  • More than 50% of men with diabetes are affected by impotence. It can affect 10-30% of all men

  • It is 3 times more common in men with diabetes in their 30’s

  • 2 times more common in men with diabetes overall

  • One in five (1/5) impotent men have undiagnosed diabetes.

  • 50 % of men don’t seek advice


What is it?

Erectile dysfunction (impotence) means not being able to have or keep an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse. Whilst there is a natural slowing down with age, it can be distressing. Approximately one in 10 (1/10) men over the age of 40 years has erectile dysfunction wether they have diabetes or not. All men experience failure to achieve an erection at some time in their lives and this problem increases with age for all men. However, there is a wide range of treatments available.

What causes erectile dysfunction 

Erectile dysfunction may happen because of physical or psychological causes or a mixture of the two, diabetes, especially when poorly controlled can cause damage to the blood supply to the penis and to the nerves, which control erection. Other causes of erectile dysfunction include:

Physical Causes:

  • Damage to the nerve supply (neuropathy) to the penis that stops its blood vessel expanding. Caused by Diabetes

  • Damage to the blood vessels supplying the penis- Diabetes

  • Smoking /Drinking too much alcohol

  • The use of some illegal drugs

  • Hormone problems

  • Some medicines used to treat high blood pressure and depression

  • Operations on the bowels, prostate or bladder may cause damage to the nerves connecting to the penis, as can damage to the spinal cord.

  • Kidney Failure

  • multiple sclerosis

  • cardiovascular disease

  • lifestyle (eg, being overweight, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption)

    Psychological causes such as:

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Lack of Confidence

  • Marital problems

  • Guilt and fear of failure to perform.

    In the majority of cases (estimated to be around 70 per cent) there's a physical cause for the impotence where nerve damage or poor blood flow underlies the problem.

    Can it be pevented?

    We know that the risk of developing diabetes complications can be reduced by maintaining very good control of blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol,preventing weight gain and not smoking.

    Don’t be afraid to discuss this with your doctor or diabetes specialist team, there are many ways in which they can help you and your partner with this.



    Several treatment methods are available via the NHS these include:

    • Oral tablets e.g. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra

    • Vacuum devices

    • Intraurethral pellets e.g. muse. Tiny pellets are inserted just inside the opening to the penis

    • Injections into the penis e.g. Caverject, Viriclal
    • Surgery- this is not usually the first line treatment

    Diabetes CAN affect your sex life. If you are having problems don’t keep them to yourself speak to you Diabetes Care Team as there are many treatments readily available to you.

    Be aware that sexual activity is a form of exercise and can cause hypos For most people it is a good form of exercise, therefore you need to be prepared for a drop in your blood glucose.

    Specialist Clinics

    If you have concerns or questions about your sex life contact your Diabetes Specialist Team we have Specialist Clinics with our Consultants and Diabetes Specialist Nurse

    Medical Andrology - Dr McNally
    Every 2nd Friday afternoon of the month at Leicester Royal Infirmary
    Contact: 0116 258 6182

    Andrology - Dr Gregory
    Every 3rd Monday afternoon of the month at the Leicester General Hospital.
    Contact: 0116 258 8017

    Erectile Dysfunction (ED) (medical andrology) Clinic Dr Jackson & Dave McAughey(DSN)
    Every 1st Friday morning of the month at the Leicester General Hospital. Referrals accepted from primary and secondary care. Contact: 0116 258 8304/8017

    Useful links