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Ask The Doctor: Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

By Howard LeWine, M.D.
Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing at Harvard Health Publications. He is recognized as an outstanding clinician and teacher and is a recipient of the Internal Medicine Teacher of the Year award at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine continues to practice Internal Medicine; most recently he became a hospitalist after practicing primary care for over 20 years.


Can diabetes medication cause a man to be unable to have erections?


Medications that help keep blood sugar under good control should not cause a problem with erections. In fact, better control of diabetes is likely to help a man maintain erectile function.

Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. A man's ability to have and maintain an erection is completely dependent on normal nerves that tell the blood vessels in the penis how to react. Nerves that don't function normally or blood vessels that don't expand and contract at the right times will limit, and sometimes prohibit, the ability to have an erection.

People with diabetes need to do everything they can to keep blood vessels healthy. Controlling blood sugar is only the beginning. The other ways to help blood vessels react normally include:

  • Avoiding tobacco

  • Lowering LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") to less than 100 milligrams per deciliter

  • Making sure that blood pressure stays in the normal range

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Exercising regularly

It is more likely that vascular and nerve problems related to diabetes are the main reasons for erectile dysfunction, rather than medications that lower blood sugar.

Last Annual Review Date: 2010-02-24T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: Copyright Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Erectile Dysfunction section on Better Medicine

Your Guide to Diabetes & ED

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Diabetes is one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction.