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Diabetes as a cause of ED

Erectile dysfunction is a common issue in men, but shouldn’t be considered as just a part of growing old. Often, it can be a sign of an underlying health problem that could cause more serious medical conditions in the long run. One of these conditions is type 2 diabetes.

More men are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than women Trusted source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Government Source Go to source , meaning there is an unfortunate rise in sexual problems in men. However, both conditions are preventable and treatable, so catching symptoms early can help get your sex life back whilst improving your health overall.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between impotence and diabetes at HealthExpress.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 06-10-2023

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes mellitus occurs when your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. As insulin plays a vital role in blood glucose control, your blood sugar levels become very high as there is not enough insulin.

The condition is generally caused by a poor diet and little physical activity, unlike type 1 diabetes which is caused by factors out of your control.

“5 million people in the UK are diabetic”

In the short-term, diabetes can cause frequent urination, recurrent thrush, slow-healing wounds and fatigue. However, in the long-term, it causes complications in your nerves, eyes, feet and heart. It is also a huge risk factor for obesity.

Almost 5 million people in the UK are living with diabetes, 90% of which have type 2 according to Diabetes UK. While the physical and psychological effects are well known, many don’t realise the effect it has on your sexual health.

How do you manage erectile dysfunction and diabetes?

Lifestyle changes

Simple changes to your lifestyle will significantly improve your blood sugar levels:

  • eating a low-calorie, balanced diet
  • regular light exercise
  • weight loss - this can also improve your confidence
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding alcohol

Alongside managing your diabetes, this will help improve your erections.

A wooden heart-shaped bowl containing fruit and vegetables with diabetes monitor and stethoscope in background.


It’s also important to take your diabetes medicines correctly, whether you need to take insulin or tablets, to keep your blood sugar under control.

If you’re struggling with ED as well, you should consult your doctor on what oral medications you can take. PDE-5 inhibitors, such as Viagra and Cialis, are a group of ED treatments that have few side effects and are safe to take for most men with diabetes.

You should still consult your doctor before taking any treatment. They know your medical history, and they can check what's safe for you to take. However, there are plenty of non-medicated treatment options for those who cannot take traditional ED meds.

Main takeaways

  • Type 2 diabetes causes ED as it damages the blood vessels and nerves.
  • It also lowers your testosterone levels and impacts your mental health - both of which are linked to ED.
  • Managing your diabetes, losing weight and using ED treatments will all significantly improve your symptoms.

Further reading

Obesity as a cause of ED

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Obesity as a cause of ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Stress, anxiety and how it can cause ED

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Stress, anxiety and how it can cause ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Heart disease: the leading cause of erectile dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Heart disease as a cause of ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
How smoking can ruin your sex life

Erectile Dysfunction Causes How smoking can ruin your sex life

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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