Diabetes and impotence

Diabetes and impotence
Studies have shown that men with diabetes are three times more likely to have problems with sex than those without.

Sexual dysfunction or impotency is a common, underreported and largely underappreciated complication of diabetes. A large number of cases go unrecognised owing naturally to the traditional reluctance both on the part of the patient as well as the physician in discussing such issues, which are considered too personal to be discussed outside the bedroom. The most common sexual problem is erectile dysfunction.

Diabetes in India

Diabetes occurs when you have too much sugar circulating in your bloodstream. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1: affects less than 10 % of those who have diabetes. Type2: It develops as a result of being overweight or inactive. Approximately 100 million Indians have diabetes, and about half of them are men. Both Type I and Type 2 diabetics are prone to develop impotence.

What is the connection?

To get an erection, men need healthy blood vessels, nerves, male hormones, and a desire to be sexually stimulated. Diabetes damages blood vessels, especially the smallest blood vessels such as those in the penis. It also damages nerves leading to neuropathy, which means even with desire, nerves of the penis don’t respond to stimulation. Therefore, even if you have normal amounts of male hormones and you have the desire to have sex, you still may not be able to achieve a firm erection.

How you can manage it

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to live with erectile dysfunction. The right treatment can help.

n Get diabetes under control: According to American Diabetology Association (ADA), the most important number you need to stay on top of is your A1C, which is a blood test that lets you know how well your blood sugar has been controlled for the past few months. Lifestyle changes can help and so can medications.

n Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet and getting enough exercise will help both your diabetes and your erectile dysfunction.

n Quit smoking: It is advisable to quit smoking if you do.

n Reduce weight: If you’re overweight or obese, losing even a small per cent of your body weight will help control diabetes. Obese men might also benefit from gastric bypass surgery, which has been shown to relieve both erectile dysfunction and diabetes in some patients.

n Keep heart disease at bay: Work with your doctor to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which can contribute to erectile dysfunction.

n Treat erectile dysfunction: There are many ways to treat erectile dysfunction, including pills, injections, vacuum pumps, and surgery. Talk to your urologist about what might best suit you, while you are working to beat diabetes.

The connection between impotence and diabetes is undeniable, but that doesn’t mean one has to accept this outcome. Taking steps to control diabetes will improve your quality of life.

Sexual dysfunction can be a huge psychological burden on patients with diabetes and can have a negative impact on marital relations that are already burdened by the chronic illness.

Thus, the recognition and identification of this problem,proper treatment and counselling by the treating doctor go a long way in restoring normalcy in the lives of many couples who quietly suffer the agony of this disorder.

(The author is chairman, Manipal Fertility)
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