For men with diabetes, problems achieving and maintaining erections may increase as blood sugar control worsens, a study published in the journal BJU International.
Researchers at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil evaluated 115 men with diabetes and erectile problems who visited a urology centre. The researchers rated the men's level of erectile dysfunction using a standard questionnaire and tested the men's fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c levels, a measure of long-term blood sugar control.
According to their results, the severity of erectile difficulties was linked to poorer blood sugar control. Among men whose HbA1c results were relatively good, 50% experienced mild erectile dysfunction, while 18% experienced moderate erectile dysfunction and 32% experienced severe erectile dysfunction.
The number of men with severe erectile problems increased among groups whose blood results showed less control of blood sugar levels over the long term. Among men whose results fell in the higher HbA1c category, 46% had erectile problems described as severe. The incidence of moderate erectile dysfunction was also higher in this group, with 29% reporting moderate difficulties achieving or maintaining erections.
The authors also observed that the link between poor blood sugar control and erectile dysfunction only existed in cases where the men had diabetes for at least five years prior to the study.
The study is not the first to link diabetes with erectile problems, but its authors say it is the first to quantify a connection.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study of the effect of diabetes mellitus control on erectile function, describing the severity of erectile dysfunction in categorical groups based on a valid questionnaire," the study's authors say.
But they go on to add that "future studies are needed to explain the nature of this relationship and to assess whether lowering HbA1c serum levels by adequately treating diabetes mellitus might improve erectile function."
Aside from diabetes, there are a number of other conditions associated with erectile dysfunction - some physical and some psychological. These include performance anxiety, the use of certain medications, hormonal disorders, spinal injuries, and more.
Depending on the cause, there are a number of ways erectile dysfunction can be treated, including medications that improve blood flow to the penis, hormone replacement, injections, surgery, and psychotherapy.
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