You may not want to talk about it, but for many men it's a nasty little fact of life. What is it? Erectile dysfunction. Add diabetes to the mix, and ED becomes an even bigger issue. Researchers estimate that about 35 to 75 percent of men with diabetes will experience at least some degree of ED, or impotence, during their life.

ED, the "Extra-Troublemaker"

ED affects a man's ability to get and keep an erection. For healthy sexual activity, men need healthy blood vessels, nerves and male hormones. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control erection. So even if you have a strong desire for sex, you still might not be able to keep a firm erection.

In some cases, it's ED that leads a person to seek medical help, and that's when diabetes is diagnosed. Unfortunately, men with diabetes tend to develop ED 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. As men with diabetes age, the condition becomes even more common. At age 50, the likelihood of having difficulties achieving an erection occurs in 50 to 60 percent of men with diabetes. And at age 70, nine out of 10 men will experience some difficulty.

Treatment Options

  • First things first, see your doctor. Any treatment should be supervised and approved by your health-care provider.

  • Your doctor may prescribe oral medications such as Viagra®, Cialis® or Levitra®. One of these drugs may work better than another, which is why you see your physician regularly to monitor your progress.

  • More radical treatments involve penile injection therapy or a penile implant, both of which have been shown to help restore normal function.

  • Finally, don't give up. It's important to maintain healthy sexual relations with your partner, and diabetes should not be cause to give up that part of your life.