A link between Type 1 diabetes and erectile dysfunction?

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Although Type 1 diabetes has no effect on fertility, it can have an impact on men’s sexual health, and this link can be a source of legitimate recurrent concern in any man with diabetes, young and old alike.

As has always been the case, in its advanced and later stages, Type 1 diabetes can cause certain types of damage (nerve damage in the event of neuropathy, damage to the arteries supplying blood to the penis, or testosterone deficiencies, in particular). However, this type of damage is actually very rare and erectile dysfunction – the most common problem – can be caused by numerous different factors in reality. 

What is erectile dysfunction?

The definition of erectile dysfunction is simple: it is the inability to achieve or maintain an adequate erection to be able to engage in satisfactory sexual intercourse. So erectile dysfunction should not be confused with sexual desire, libido or orgasm problems.

Erectile dysfunction affects one in three men over the age of 40. It can also occur in younger men, but in such cases, the cause is more often psychological.

How can you prevent erectile dysfunction?hat impact does type 1 diabetes have on a man’s sexual health?

To prevent the development of erection problems, the first thing is to make sure your diabetes is properly under control. Checking your blood sugar, taking your treatment as prescribed and making the necessary lifestyle adjustments (diet and exercise) are the cornerstones of diabetes management. This will have a positive impact on erection problems, but also on other diabetes complications (kidneys, eyes, nerves, skin, etc.). 

Another factor that needs to be considered is smoking. Smokers are considerably more likely to suffer from erection problems

Finally, doctors have observed that the problem usually occurs after long periods of sexual inactivity, during which erectile function gradually deteriorates. Not talking about the problem to your doctor can lead to a vicious circle, in which the fear of failure then becomes the cause of the erection problems… With intimate problems of this type, it’s important to communicate and seek help from your partner: very often the issue is much easier to solve together as a couple. 

Sexual health and psychology

Psychological factors are to blame in 10 to 20% of all cases of erectile dysfunction. Stress, low self-esteem, depression, mental block, loss of sex drive (libido), etc. are all well-known causes for erectile dysfunction today. And it is clearly possible to prevent or treat these factors.

Watch your heart

Erectile dysfunction has negative impacts on men’s quality of life, whatever their age. It can develop after many years of diabetes progression and damage to vessels and nerves essential to achieve a normal erection.

Prevention and treatment

In addition to drug treatments, there are also other, less well-known methods. For example, penile injections – or more specifically intracavernosal injections – are very effective once men have learned how to use them properly. “Mechanical” methods also exist. The vacuum device is a small manual or electric pump used to produce an erection, that is then maintained by placing an elastic band around the base of the penis. Penile implants require surgery and make it possible to obtain a real mechanical erection using a pump placed inside the scrotum, i.e., the tissue at the base of the penis; this is a permanent method.

Erectile dysfunction is a problem with complex causes. It’s a taboo subject for most men, and yet it’s essential to talk to a health professional about the problem in order to assess the erectile dysfunction and agree an appropriate method of treatment. In straightforward cases, there will be no need to consult a sexual therapy specialist. The primary care practitioner or diabetes specialist will be perfectly capable of treating the problem.

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