Uncontrolled diabetes tied to erectile dysfunction in men

Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar starrer ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ which released last year highlighted the issue of erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is an inability to get an erection sufficient enough for an intercourse. This could be due to many factors, one of which could be lack of blood supply to the penis, caused due to uncontrolled diabetes or an onset of diabetes

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While a lot of studies do show that any man with uncontrolled diabetes has three times more chances of developing erectile dysfunction, My Medical Mantra tries to see why this could be a reason and how common it is.

As a busy day starts at 9:00 am at Dr Gadge’s Diabetes Centre in Goregaon, there is a queue of patients waiting for the doctor. As we go to ask him about the connection between the uncontrolled diabetes and ED, said Dr Pradeep Gadge, Diabetologist, Gadge Diabetes Centre, Mumbai explains, “Every second male who comes to me above the age of 50 with uncontrolled diabetes has ED. It is that major, a problem. A very high proportion of people .”

He added, “Uncontrolled diabetes can cause neuropathy and vasculopathy that result in lack of bloody supply in the penis.”

While doctors say that both the diseases are interlinked; some experts point out that ED is a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes and heart diseases among men.

“All patients with ED have uncontrolled diabetes. If I get a patient who is 30 years old, I’d check his  diabetes and I’m sure he will get it in near future if he doesn’t suffer it immediately. ED is the earliest marker of diabetes,” said Dr Deepak K  Jumani, professor and sexual health physician attached to JJ Group of Hospitals, Grand Hospital and Mumbai Police Hospital.

Dr Jumani further said, “Whenever there the flow in the penile artery is disrupted, the person gets a vasculogenic ED. Now, the penile artery is the smallest artery in the whole body. When a person is diagnosed with ateres chlorosis (lack of blood supply or disruption in the blood vessels) here, blockages are caused. A blockage, say in 50% of penile artery, he gets ED.”

“This, if left undiagnosed will clog other arteries like coronary arteries which can cause heart attack or strokes. Ateres chlorosis is a progressive disease. Hence, ED is a symptom of most of these problems of the heart too. Therefore, each doctor should ask their patients with uncontrolled diabetes if they have ED.”

Psychiatrists also say there is a very strong connection between the two. “Whenever I get a patient with ED, I make sure to get his diabetes checked and also if there are any heart issues,” said Dr Anjali Chhabria, a well-known psychiatrist and Founder of Mind-temple.

What’s the connection between diabetes and ED?

  • When a man is sexually aroused, a chemical called nitric oxide is released into his bloodstream.
  • This nitric oxide directs the arteries and the muscles in the penis to relax, which allows more blood to flow into the penis.
  • This gives the man an erection. But for men with diabetes, blood sugar levels are always fluctuating.
  • When their blood sugar levels get too high, less nitric oxide is produced.
  • This can mean that there is not enough blood flowing into the penis to get or keep an erection.
  • This also means that low levels of nitric oxide are often found in those with diabetes.