Erectile dysfunction and diabetes can go hand-in-hand, in fact, it’s common for men who have diabetes to experience impotence, or in other words, the inability to get or maintain an erection that is firm enough for penetrative sex. While erectile dysfunction cannot cause diabetes, the effects of diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction. If you’ve not yet got to the root cause of your erection problems and you’re at risk of diabetes, then it’s worth getting a health check to see if you’re diabetic. 

Fortunately, impotence is curable, and with some lifestyle changes and the right medication, you will see improvements in your sexual function.

Here’s how your diabetes could be affecting you sexually and what you can do about it. 

How does diabetes affect a man sexually?

Diabetes can affect the sex lives of men and women in many ways, particularly in terms of desire for sex. The complications of diabetes, and the side effects of some medications can cause low libido. 

Specifically to men though, erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual complaint but particularly in men who have diabetes. Often, erectile dysfunction appears before any other symptoms of diabetes present, and it can be the diagnosis of ED which prompts further investigation into diabetes. So if you’ve got erectile dysfunction ask your GP about diabetes, your erection problems could be the key to identifying a serious underlying health condition. 

What is the link between erectile dysfunction and diabetes? How does one cause the other?

Erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes

The glucose levels in the blood associated with diabetes can damage the muscles and nerves throughout the body, this is known as diabetic neuropathy. The nerves that control erection can also be affected and cause a lack of feeling in the penis and even pain, and the blood vessels can also become damaged by the high levels of glucose which reduces the blood supply to the penis, adequate blood flow to the penis is needed for an erection to occur. All of this makes getting an erection very difficult even when a man has enough desire for sex. 

Erectile dysfunction associated with peripheral neuropathy in diabetes is one cause, however, many men who have diabetes may also have other serious health conditions that contribute to erectile dysfunction such as obesity, high blood pressure, and even depression and anxiety which can develop after receiving a diabetes diagnosis. Diabetes can affect the essentials for an adequate erection such as nerves, muscles, blood vessels, male hormones, and desire for sex, all of which have consequences on your ability to have sex.  

If your erectile dysfunction isn’t caused by nerve damage, it could be your medication. Although there is a direct link between diabetes and erectile dysfunction in terms of nerve damage, other associated health conditions and lifestyle choices that are common amongst type 2 diabetic patients can also contribute to ED. These include:

  • being overweight
  • being inactive
  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • having depression or anxiety
  • taking medication for depression or high blood pressure as ED is a side effect of these types of medication         

Physically, diabetes impacts sexual function in many ways, but the emotional impacts of this disease can impair sexual performance which can also lead to erectile dysfunction. The stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem that can happen when diagnosed with diabetes can lead to problems with relationships and you may lose the desire for sex.

Emotions play a big part in achieving an erection, but emotions such as stress, anxiety, and depression can actually interrupt signals sent from the brain to the penis to stimulate blood flow and prompt an erection. So as you can see, your emotional state not only plays a part in your desire for sex but also your physical ability to have sex. 

Can erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes be reversed?

How to treat ED caused by diabetes

Getting a diagnosis of diabetes or erectile dysfunction may seem that your quality of life is depleting, but on a positive note, both conditions can be managed and even cured. 

Diabetes is a long-term condition so it won’t go away without medication or lifestyle changes, but for some people, their diabetes has been effectively managed to the point that they no longer need medication and their quality of life improves as a result. If caught early enough you can prevent nerve damage caused by diabetes and therefore prevent ED associated with peripheral neuropathy. 

But the most effective way to reverse or improve erectile dysfunction and diabetes is by making significant lifestyle changes. We know that smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, and being inactive are major risk factors for both erectile dysfunction and diabetes, and by addressing these issues you will see significant improvements in your overall health, your diabetic condition, and sexual function. 

If you have diabetes you need to monitor your blood glucose levels and get this under control, this will prevent damage or further damage to your nerves and blood vessels and allow for better erections. You can manage your blood glucose levels with medication and regular monitoring with a glucose meter. 



How to treat erectile dysfunction

diabetes and erectile dysfunction: how to treat it

As mentioned earlier, improving your physical and mental health is key to improving ED, particularly ED caused by diabetes - but as well as this, you can try oral medications to help you achieve an erection. 

Erectile dysfunction is very curable with medication. You may have heard of Viagra which is a very popular brand of ED medicine that contains a key ingredient known as sildenafil, but there are many other brands and generic versions of this drug that are just as effective.

Other ED medicines may contain the key ingredient, tadalafil, but collectively ED medicines are known as PDE-5 inhibitors. These medicines work by increasing blood flow to the penis to make it erect, this blood flow may have reduced because of circulatory problems or any of the conditions or lifestyle choices mentioned earlier. 

Some types of PDE-5 inhibitors can get to work in as little as 15 minutes, giving you an erection firm enough for sex. These drugs have been revolutionary for men and their sex lives and it now means that a common sexual complaint is now very curable. Of course, taking medication such as this will depend on whether you have other medical conditions or are taking other mediation that may interact with ED medicines. Generally, most men are suitable, and if you have diabetes your doctor may well prescribe Viagra or another type of ED medicine if erectile dysfunction is a complication of your diabetes. 



It’s important to know that diabetes doesn’t mean the end of the road for your sex life. However diabetes affects sex, there is a solution in the form of emotional support, counseling, and physical treatment. Yes, having diabetes may mean making changes to your life but by making the right changes and receiving effective treatment you can lead a fulfilled and satisfied sex life.  Diabetes UK also has lots of advice and support around sex and diabetes for both men and women. 


Want to know more about diabetes? Click the links below:


The Biggest Diabetes Myths Debunked

Diabetes Awareness Week: Everything You Need to Know About the Condition

Read more on erectile dysfunction and treatments:


Viagra vs Cialis: What’s the Difference Between Them?

Cialis vs Tadalafil: What’s the Difference Between Them?

Erection Protection: 7 Habits That Could be Causing Your Erectile Dysfunction

Can You Take Viagra Recreationally?