Erectile Dysfunction: How Diabetics Can Reduce Their Risk

Despite being two very different conditions, it seems that Type 2 Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction often go hand in hand.

Many studies have reviewed the link between the two conditions, with research showing that men with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop ED.

This article will take a closer look at why erectile dysfunction is so closely interlinked with type 2 diabetes and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Type 2 Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction was once a type 2 diabetes complication that received little attention. However, thanks to increasing research and a shift in opening up about sexual health, awareness of it has grown over the years.

ED is a common health complication in men diagnosed with diabetes. Studies suggest that 35-75% of men with diabetes will go on to develop ED. They will also tend to develop the condition some 10-15 years earlier than men without diabetes.

The prevalence between diabetes and erectile dysfunction in men is related to circulation and the body’s nervous system. Closely monitoring blood glucose levels is an integral part of diabetes management.

Poorly managed blood sugar can lead to several health complications, including ED. This is as constant fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, which play a role in sexual stimulation.

Damage to these nerves can impact your sex drive and affect the blood flow to your penis, affecting your ability to have an erection.

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Risk factors for Erectile Dysfunction

  • Poorly managed blood sugar

  • High-stress levels/ high blood pressure

  • Lack of exercise

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol

  • Uncontrolled hypertension

How to reduce your risk of Erectile Dysfunction

By managing your diabetes and making specific lifestyle changes, you can limit your risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

1) Healthy Diet

Making health-conscious choices when it comes to your diet could help to reduce your risk of sexual problems. One of the risk factors is being overweight.

By limiting your intake of fatty and sugary foods and replacing them with fruit, vegetables, and protein, you can reduce your weight, reducing your risk of erectile dysfunction.

Diet plays a vital role in diabetes management, and a healthy diet can help to control blood sugar levels.

Studies have shown that men who changed their diet to one low in saturated fat and high in fiber and did a moderate physical activity each week were able to improve ED without prescription drugs.

2) Exercise

Diet combined with exercise can help to keep your weight in check and as a result, reduce your risk of diabetic complications, such as male sexual dysfunction, neuropathy, and heart disease. Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, helping to lower stress and increase blood flow.

A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine examined 1-year changes in erectile function in overweight/obese men with type 2 diabetes participating in the Look AHEAD trial.

In this sample of older overweight/obese diabetic men, weight loss intervention was mildly helpful in maintaining erectile function.

A further study published in The American Journal of Cardiology showed that aerobic exercise could improve erectile function.

After just 30 days, patients who took part in a daily 6-minute walking program reported a significant decrease of 71% in reported ED.

That’s because blood flow problems to the penis often cause ED. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and vascular disease all affect blood flow…and all result in a higher incidence of ED.

Stress can also have a severe effect on your health, resulting in a rise in blood sugar levels and affecting your glucose control.

Exercising helps to increase insulin sensitivity, and studies have supported the benefits of exercising to relieve stress, showing that it increases the production of endorphins, reducing levels of anxiety and depression.

3) Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption

Two vices that often go hand in hand are smoking and drinking. However, research has shown that these two habits, especially when combined, can take a serious toll on your sexual health.

Smoking is associated with many health risks and has a very damaging effect on your blood vessels.

Blood circulation and blood flow play an important part in erectile function, and smoking has been shown to cause damage to your blood vessels.

The same goes for alcohol. If you have diabetes, you should already be wary of your alcohol consumption.

Alcohol tends to be high in both sugar and carbs and can further increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. One small but insightful study reviewed 50 alcohol-dependent male inpatients. The results found that 72% of the subject experienced sexual dysfunction.

Treatment options for Erectile Dysfunction


Certain medications such as Viagra and Cialis are commonly prescribed to men battling erectile dysfunction.

However, these drugs have been shown to have certain side effects, including headaches, dizziness, and vision changes, to name but a few.

This can be especially problematic for men diagnosed with diabetes and result in dangerous interaction with other medications. Before taking any drugs for ED, discuss with your doctor if it will interact with any other medicines you are taking.

Penile Implantation

For diabetic patients who fail medical management of ED, penile implantation surgery may be suggested.

In a recent review of 372 men who underwent implantation of a three-piece inflatable penile implant, 86% reported that the device was still functional five years after implantation, and 79% reported that they used the device at least twice monthly.

However, it should be noted that penile implant surgery can cause a number of side effects, including, infection, pain, and injury to a vein or artery.

Natural treatments

Herbal treatments for erectile dysfunction are becoming increasingly popular in the western world. One of the significant benefits of using natural ingredients is the minimized risk of experiencing any side effects.

One popular natural remedy that has been reported is Tongkat. Tongkat Ali is popular in traditional medicine.

It has been primarily used to promote healthy libido and support hormone levels in males. Traditionally it has been used as an aphrodisiac and a remedy for age-related sexual disorders and symptoms of andropause.

This is due to the root containing compounds that have repeatedly shown to stimulate libido, promote semen quality and muscle growth.

Lab studies have shown that Tongkat Ali also boosts testosterone by blocking an enzyme called aromatase; this enzyme converts testosterone to estrogens.

A study of testosterone levels in men showed that after a month of taking 200 mg of Tongkat Ali, the number of men with normal testosterone levels jumped from 35.5% to 90.8%.

Another herb is Yohimbine, which is a remedy extracted from the bark of the Yohimbe tree found in Central Africa. It is commonly used for treating ED and assisting in weight loss.

A double-blind study on the effect of Yohimbine on men with erectile dysfunction showed that 34% of men experienced at least a partial improvement after a month of daily treatment.

Another study proved that Yohimbine was a much more effective treatment for ED than the placebo groups, with hardly any side effects.

Ginseng has also shown some promise in helping with ED. The active ingredient in ginseng are called ginsenosides; they have been shown to increase nitric oxide production.

Given that phosphodiesterase inhibitors (such as sildenafil), which are used to treat male erectile dysfunction, increases nitric oxide activity, ginsenosides have been assessed as a possible natural treatment for ED.


Erectile dysfunction can take its toll on both your physical and mental health. Many men find it difficult to talk about and can result in feelings of inadequacy and depression.

Opening up to your partner is, and if you are struggling, you should not be afraid to seek help.

Whether it be through talking to a friend or meeting with a counselor. It is also especially important if you have diabetes, to discuss any sexual health problems with your doctor.

By taking into consideration your lifestyle, diet, and level of activity, you can reduce your risk of developing ED.

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  1. Maiorino MI, Bellastella G, Esposito K. Diabetes, and sexual dysfunction: current perspectives. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2014;7:95–105. Published 2014 Mar 6. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S36455
  2. Corona G, Giorda CB, Cucinotta D, Guida P, Nada E; SUBITO-DE Study Group. Sexual Dysfunction in Type 2 Diabetes at Diagnosis: Progression over Time and Drug and Non-Drug Correlated Factors. PLoS One. 2016;11(10):e0157915. Published 2016 Oct 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157915
  3. Wing RR, Rosen RC, Fava JL, et al. Effects of weight loss intervention on erectile function in older men with type 2 diabetes in the Look AHEAD trial. J Sex Med. 2010;7(1 Pt 1):156–165. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01458.x
  5. Palma-Zamora I, Sood A, Dabaja AA. 30-day adverse event rates following penile prosthesis surgery: an American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program based evaluation. Transl Androl Urol. 2017;6(Suppl 5):S767–S773. doi:10.21037/tau.2017.04.25
  6. Tambi MI, Imran MK, Henkel RR. (2012). Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism?. Andrologia. 44 (1), p226-230.
  7. Susset JG, Tessier CD, Wincze J, Bansal S, Malhotra C, Schwacha MG.. (1989). Effect of yohimbine hydrochloride on erectile impotence: a double-blind study.. The Journal of Urology. 141 (6), p1360-1363.

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