Diabetic complications due to continued and unregulated blood sugar levels such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and circulation problems are most likely the culprits that make erectile dysfunction more prevalent in men with diabetes too. For men, a sequence of nerve impulses and muscular and vascular (veins and arteries) responses lead to an erection. Nerve damage and circulation complications can disrupt these impulses and responses.

The Numbers

Men with diabetes are more likely than other men to 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. According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases between 35 and 50 percent of men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction. In light of recent studies published by the American Diabetes Association suggesting that ED may be closely linked to atherosclerosis, the build-up of waxy material in blood vessels that can lead to heart and blood vessel diseases, it is safe to assume that men with diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease. So how does all of this add up?

The CDC reports that 24 million people suffer from diabetes and another 57 million have a condition known as pre-diabetes. Just below half of these cases are men meaning that roughly 35 million men are affected by diabetes and pre-diabetes. Cross reference that with the information of National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases and there are up to roughly 17 million men at a great risk for heart disease. Let's take a look at what the study had to say:

The Study

Researchers wanted to find out whether the presence of erectile dysfunction indicates the likelihood of heart disease events in people with type 2 diabetes. The study included over 2,000 Chinese men with type 2 diabetes and no evidence of heart disease. The men were tested for diabetes complications. They were then followed for an average of 4 years to find out how many had heart disease events.

Men who had heart disease events were older and more likely to have erectile dysfunction and other diabetes complications than those who did not experience such events. They also had higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and higher levels of urine protein (a sign of kidney disease) than those who did not experience such events. After taking these and other factors into account though, the researchers found that men with erectile dysfunction were still 1.6 times more likely to experience heart disease events than those without erectile dysfunction.

The Solution 

Early detection can prevent heart disease and erectile dysfunction can be an early indication of a risk for heart disease. So it is important to communicate early and often with your healthcare team should erectile dysfunction arise. Pocket your pride and share the issue with your physician. In the meantime develop tight controls around blood sugar such as regular testing, a healthy balanced diet and exercise. Each of these is a cornerstone in the fight against diabetes.