Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

Changes in sexual function are commonplace with aging, but adding diabetes to the mix can increase the severity and early onset of these conditions — rendering ED and diabetes as a not so palatable pairing.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) as defined by the Mayo Clinic is: "the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex." This may also translate into a successful erection without the ability to ejaculate.

ED can be an insanely frustrating condition for both partners. Fortunately, there's help to get your sex life back in working order.

How is ED related to diabetes?

ED can be a battle wound of sorts from a lifetime of diabetes. There's no time for the blame game — take control, its never too late to make a positive difference in your diabetes health. You can't think yourself into having an erection. One doesn't have conscious control over nerve signals in their body or to sexual stimuli. They're "involuntary, governed by autonomic nerve signals that increase blood flow to the genitals and cause smooth muscle tissue to relax. Damage to these autonomic nerves can hinder normal function," according to The NIDDK.

ED may present from:

  • Poor long-term blood sugar control
  • Damage to nerves and small blood vessels
  • Other secondary health conditions such as: high blood pressure, smoking, coronary artery disease, obesity, inactivity, or age.

Seek help. No one can help you if you aren't willing to address your ED, diabetes, and other related health conditions. Coming out of the closet can be a freeing experience — one that can create solutions to this condition. Start with your primary care provider, endocrinologist, or a urologist.

Treating ED

Dr. Andrew Kramer, a urologic surgeon and director of Reproductive and Sexual Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and specializes in penile implant surgery states: "There are a range of treatment options, from oral medications like Viagra, to injections, vacuum devices, and suppositories," to consider prior to a surgical procedure.

Joslin Diabetes Center brings forward a specific diabetes point not to overlook, having chronically high blood sugars can affect the amount of testosterone present in a male patient which can lead to a decreased libido (as well as thyroid and prolactin hormone levels).

According to Joslin, medications can help, but also have the potential to harm. Be sure to check with your primary care provider about drugs you are taking for, "heart problems, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, pain, allergies, and weight control," which in some instances can cause ED. A medication replacement may be in order to alleviate symptoms you are experiencing.

A surgical penile pump may be an option if other treatment modalities have failed and you have received a thorough workup to rule out any controllable factors that could be contributing to impotence. Penile pumps are either inflatable or non-inflatable devices. A typical implant has a hidden pump in the scrotum which is controllable by the user, sending salt water into the erectile chambers of the penis creating an erection.

Dr. Kramer states this is a twenty minute procedure — successful on 20 to 92 year old patients with ED allowing the patient to resume sexual activity within a month.

Loving relationships, mental health, and manhood

Stress and worry can increase symptoms of erectile dysfunction hindering sexual performance even further. Seeking help from relationship specialists, personal counselors, and engaging in positive thought can help restore self confidence and manhood back to where it belongs.

To learn more about this topic:

Treating Diabetic Neuropathy and Erectile Dysfunction
Intimacy — Tip 3: For Men, ED Is Out of the Closet
Diabetes and Intimacy