Sexual problems are often a taboo subject and many men have trouble talking about them. However, talking to a healthcare professional about it can help you learn more about the treatment options and ways to stop the situation from worsening.
How diabetes affects sexual function
Diabetes can have many adverse effects on sexual function, including an impact on:
- the hormonal system, which controls the production of testosterone, the hormone of desire, whose rate may fall
- the nervous system, which can impair erections if the person suffers from neuropathy, a complication of diabetes
- the cardiovascular system, which can obstruct the penile arteries
- the immune system, causing a man with diabetes to be at higher risk of infection, such as a fungal infection of the foreskin
Diabetes is one of the main causes of erectile dysfunction. Consequently, erectile dysfunction is one of the sexual problems most often encountered by diabetic men.
Erectile dysfunction has a negative impact on men’s quality of life, regardless of age, and may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease. That is why it is important to talk about it with a healthcare professional.
- how long you have had diabetes
- poor diabetes control
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- dyslipidemia (for example: high blood cholesterol levels)
- androgen deficiency (low level of male sex hormones)
- cardiovascular diseases
Because diabetes promotes atherosclerosis (fat deposits and hardening of the arteries) and the penis is supplied by very small blood vessels, these vessels are usually the first to be affected. When blood flow is compromised, erectile problems can appear. In addition, poorly controlled diabetes can clog the arteries of the penis and lead to neuropathy, a complication affecting the nerves of the penis.
The psychological aspect of diabetes can also affect sexual function: the shock of the diagnosis, worry about the disease, etc.
It is important to consult a physician to be checked for sexual dysfunction and to find the appropriate treatment. Sometimes drugs (Levitra®, Viagra®, Cialis®) will be prescribed.
There are many ways to have an active sex life despite sexual dysfunction. A psychologist or sexologist may be able to help you. Discuss this with your doctor.
To reduce the impact of aging and diabetes on your sexual activity and to prevent neuropathy, it is recommended that you:
- Maintain good glycemic (blood sugar) control.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, maintain a harmonious conjugal life with regular sexual activity, learn to better manage stress.
Resources for you
- Ordre professionnel des sexologues du Québec (French only)
Research and writing : Diabetes Québec’s Team of Health Professionals
June 2014 (updated January 2019)
© Diabetes Québec
- Ma R. et Tong P. (2008). Dysfonctionnement érectile chez les hommes atteints de diabète – signe précoce de cardiopathie, Diabetes Voices vol 53, num 3 p.25-27 (Fédération International du Diabète)
- Bebb R, Milllar M, Brock G. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Sexual Dysfunction and Hypogonadism in Men with Diabetes. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S228-S233.