When blood sugar levels remain too high for too long a period of time, it can cause blood vessel and nerve damage (neuropathy) that impacts the body in different ways. About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. It can develop at anytime, but the risks increase with age and longer duration of diabetes.

For men with diabetes, damage to the blood vessels and nerves that results from poor blood sugar management can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED or impotence). Essentially, the damaged blood vessels restrict blood flow to the penis, preventing a man from being able to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. This condition varies in severity, leaving some men unable to get an erection and others able to sustain one only briefly.

Experts estimate that erectile dysfunction affects approximately 30 million men in the United States.

ED and Diabetes:

Studies show that men with diabetes are up to three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction. They also tend to get it at a younger age.

Also, around 73 percent of adults with diabetes also have high blood pressure, according to the American Diabetes Association. High blood pressure increases risks for blood vessel damage. Similarly, high cholesterol, which builds fatty deposits in artery walls, restricts blood flow by interfering with the ability of blood vessels to dilate.

Each of these factors, when combined with diabetes, can further reduce blood flow, increasing risks for ED.

What Treatment is Safe for ED with Diabetes?

Diabetic men have to keep their blood sugar levels under control to minimize their risks for ED. Keeping cholesterol at a healthy level and exercising regularly can also help prevent this condition.

If you are suffering from neuropathic-related impotence, a number of treatment options can help:

Oral Medications:

Oral medications have shown to help 50-60 percent of diabetic men, with no serious side effects.

Sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio)
Tadalafil (Cialis)
Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn ODT)

Injection Treatment:

Injection therapy can help men for whom oral medications have proven ineffective:

Alprostadil (Caverject, Caverject Impulse, Edex, Muse, Prostin VR Pediatric)
Papaverine hydrochloride (Cerespan, Genabid, Pavabid, Pavabid HP, Pavacels, Pavacot, Pavagen)
Phentolamine mesylate (OraVerse)
TriMix (a combination of alprostadil, phentolamine, and papaverine)

Steps You Can Take:

According to studies, 35-75 percent of diabetic men will develop erectile dysfunction. If you are among this group, talk with your doctor about which treatment options might work best for you. And remember that controlling your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, while getting regular exercise, is one of the best ways to prevent neuropathic-related erectile dysfunction.

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