Why Do Men With Diabetes Have Erectile Dysfunction?

Men with diabetes tend to develop erectile dysfunction 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. As men with diabetes age, erectile dysfunction becomes even more common. Above the age of 50, the likelihood of having difficulty with an erection occurs in approximately 50% to 60% of men with diabetes. Above age 70, there is about a 95% likelihood of having some difficulty with erectile dysfunction.

Patients with diabetes not only have to manage their blood glucose levels to prevent long-term health problems (like kidney damage, eye damage, nerve pain, and heart problems), but they also experience issues that impact their lives more emotionally, such as problems with having or maintaining an erection that can affect their sex lives.

What Causes ED In Men With Diabetes?

The connection between diabetes and ED is related to your circulation and nervous system. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels can damage small blood vessels and nerves. Damage to the nerves that control sexual stimulation and response can impede a man’s ability to achieve an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. Reduced blood flow from damaged blood vessels can also contribute to ED.

How To Prevent Erectile Dysfunction?

There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to not only help with diabetes management, but also to lower your risk of ED. You can:

Control your blood sugar through your diet – Eating a diabetes-friendly diet will help you better control your blood sugar levels and lessen the amount of damage to your blood vessels and nerves. A proper diet geared at keeping your blood sugar levels in check can also improve your energy levels and mood, both of which can help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. You may consider working with a dietitian who is also a certified diabetes educator to help adjust your eating style.

Cut back on alcohol consumption – Drinking more than two drinks per day can damage your blood vessels and contribute to ED. Being even mildly intoxicated can also make it hard to achieve an erection and interfere with sexual function.

Stop smoking – Smoking narrows the blood vessels and decreases the levels of nitric oxide in your blood. This decreases blood flow to the penis, worsening erectile dysfunction.

Get active – Not only can adding regular exercise to your routine help you control your blood sugar levels, but it can also improve circulation, lower stress levels, and improve your energy levels. All of these can help combat ED.

Get more sleep – Fatigue is often to blame for sexual dysfunction. Ensuring that you get enough sleep each night can lower your risk of ED.

Keep your stress level down – Stress can interfere with sexual arousal and your ability to get an erection. Exercise, meditation, and setting aside time to do the things that you enjoy can help to keep your stress levels down and lessen your risk of ED. If you’re developing symptoms of anxiety or depression, consult your doctor. They may be able to refer you to a therapist who can help you work through anything that is causing you stress.

Lifestyle Changes

Erectile dysfunction due to diabetes is much better understood now. Good control of diabetes can reduce the risk of ED. Other preventive measures such as stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake will help lower the risk of developing ED.

Quitting smoking – Smoking increases your risk for ED by raising your blood pressure, which over time, can damage small blood vessels in your penis. It’s even worse if you have diabetes, which itself can cause blood vessel damage.

Reducing fat and cholesterol in your diet – Research has shown that men with high cholesterol have a higher risk of ED, and that making dietary changes to lower fat and cholesterol levels can help reduce this risk.

Exercising and losing weight – Losing weight is important for men with diabetes who are obese or overweight, as it can help lower blood glucose levels and increase blood circulation. These improvements can also help with ED. In clinical studies, weight loss has been a great means of restoring sexual function for many men.

Reducing stress – Diabetes can lead to mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, which can cause or worsen ED through psychological stress. Overcoming stress can be accomplished in multiple ways, such as through meditation or counseling.

Diagnosis Of Erectile Dysfunction

The treatment for erectile dysfunction depends on the cause. It’s important to discuss the problem with your doctor. Often the answers to a few simple questions will help to determine if the problem is physical or psychological.

Tests can determine if the blood flow to the penis is affected. Blood tests can also help to determine if hormone problems are causing the erectile dysfunction.


Men with diabetes are at a higher risk of erectile dysfunction or impotence, especially if their diabetes is not well controlled. There are many effective treatments available. Discuss the problem with your doctor as soon as you notice a change.