What men should know about diabetes and erectile dysfunction

Here’s a known fact about men diagnosed with diabetes and erectile dysfunction (ED): Studies suggest that anywhere from 35 percent to 75 percent with diabetes – regardless of whether their diabetes is type 1 or type 2 – will eventually develop ED. Moreover, these same men will also likely develop ED 10-15 years earlier than men without diabetes. 

This is a sobering reality a man with diabetes faces.  But, it does not have to be inevitable. Men can take steps to reduce this risk or, at least, manage it better. 

Why does diabetes increase ED?

Diabetes is a disease that affects people from head to toe.  A person’s eyes, heart, kidneys, circulation, and yes, the ability for men to achieve an erection can each be affected by this insidious disease.

In the case of diabetes and erectile dysfunction, the penis must be firm enough to engage in sexual intercourse. But, men with diabetes, who also have cardiovascular issues such as poor blood flow, will likely experience ED at some point in their life. ED is related to insufficient blood flowing to the penis but also to depression or problems of nerves leading to the penis.  Each of these issues can be exacerbated when men have diabetes. 

What is known about the prevalence of ED in men with diabetes is that there are several causes which include the following:

  • Blood vessel damage – Diabetes results from high blood glucose circulating in the bloodstream. Excess glucose (sugar) can significantly damage small blood vessels throughout the body, including blood vessels leading to the penis.  When these blood vessels are damaged, it becomes harder for men to get and maintain an erection. As a result, men who’ve had diabetes for years, or have had uncontrolled diabetes, have an increased risk for ED. 
  • Low testosterone levels – It’s estimated that up to 25% of men with diabetes also have low levels of testosterone. This male hormone is necessary for men to achieve an erection.  When testosterone levels are low, this has a significant impact on a man’s sexual function leading to ED. 
  • Depression – Diabetes is a difficult disease to manage. Men who struggle to manage their diabetes can have increased anxiety or worries leading to depression. Depression can worsen the situation by increasing anxiety making it more difficult to achieve an erection.
  • Side effects from medications – It is common for many people with diabetes to take multiple medications to control their disease. Unfortunately, some medications affect a man’s ability to achieve an erection due to lowering blood pressure or causing other side effects that disrupt a man’s sexual functioning.

How men with diabetes can manage ED

One of the best ways to manage diabetes is to make lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help improve better blood glucose control which means improvements in men achieving an erection.  

Here are the best lifestyle tips for men to follow to reduce ED:

  • Quit or never start smoking – There are no health benefits to smoking. Smoking raises the risk of ED by increasing blood pressure that damages small blood vessels in the penis. Men who smoke and have diabetes are harming their body and their ability to engage in sex.
  • Lower fat and cholesterol intake – Men with high cholesterol levels have a greater risk of ED.  Here are diet tips to follow to reduce cholesterol while improving heart health and lowering ED risk:
  • Reduce intake of red meat and full-fat dairy products
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds
  • Increase soluble fiber by eating more oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears
  • Increase exercise and reach a healthy body weight – Losing weight has the benefit of helping restore a man’s love life by lowering blood glucose and increasing blood circulation. Better circulation means better blood flow to the penis, aiding in better achievement of an erection.
  • Reduce stress – Stress is a known risk factor for increasing blood glucose levels. Men under stress, who already have diabetes, are at increased risk for ED. To reduce stress, it’s best to have a plan such as deep breathing, yoga, stretching, doing a hobby a man enjoys, or taking a long walk to help alleviate stress to reduce blood glucose. 


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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