Complications of Diabetes

Erectile Dysfunction or Impotence in Men who have Diabetes

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile Function (ED) is commonly referred to as 'impotence', and is defined as being unable to achieve or maintain an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse.

Inability to achieve an erection is extremely common among healthy men of all age groups and does not always indicate that there is something 'physically' wrong. Many men experience ED at some stage of their lives and it is a problem which increases with age.

Am I likely to suffer from ED?

About 10% of men (1 in 10 men) above the age of 40 years suffer from ED regardless of whether they have diabetes.

ED may affect as many as 50% (half) of patients with diabetes. This figure increases to over 75% (three-quarters) in diabetic men over the age of 70 years.

If you are unsure as to whether you are suffering from ED, try our Sexual Health Questionnaire for Men which will help you make a diagnosis.

Factors which may cause or aggravate ED

The causes of ED may be psychological (emotional) or physical. In many instances a combination of factors is responsible.

Diabetes may cause erectile dysfunction through damage to the nerve supply and blood supply of the penis.

Drugs used to treat high blood pressure and depression may contribute to ED.

Erectile dysfunction may result in psychological problems including stress, anxiety, depression and marital problems. Equally these problems may in fact be the root cause of erectile failure.

What treatment is available?

Initially it is important to talk this through with your partner. It is entirely normal to feel frustrated and embarassed and many find this a difficult subject to broach. Your partner may equally feel frustrated or rejected. Discussing the various aspects of this condition will help you both understand and deal with the situation. It is recommended that you discuss the problem with your GP or with the doctor or diabetes nurse specialist you see at the diabetes clinic.

There is a range of treatments available for Erectile dysfunction. Oral tablets such as Cialis, Vardenfil and Viagra are the most popular methods of treatment and have helped thousands overcome problems of erectile dysfunction. More information on these products may be found in the Drugs and New products section.

Vacuum devices, intracavernosal injections are some of the other treatments used.


Dr Nishan Wijenaike, MD, FRCP
Consultant Diabetologist
West Suffolk Hospital Diabetes Service
Original article October 2002
Updated November 2007