Impotence and Diabetes

General Information
Erectile Dysfunction and Diabetes
What to do if Erectile Dysfunction Develops
Treatment Options
Cochrane Review of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs For Men With Diabetes
Further Information


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General Information

Erectile dysfunction, more frequently referred to as impotence, is the persistent or recurrent inability to attain or maintain an erection. It is still something that is difficult or embarrassing to talk about, even within a relationship and so in many men it goes unreported. However, it is important to remember that over the last few years there have been major advances in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and the majority of men can now be treated effectively for intercourse to take place.


  • All men, with or without diabetes, experience difficulties in achieving an erection at some time in their lives.
  • It affects at least one man in every 10.
  • Overall 35% of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction but this rises to 50% in men with diabetes over the age of 50.

Causes of erectile dysfunction?
Until about 20 years ago erectile dysfunction was thought to be almost entirely caused by psychological factors but it is now known that physical conditions are present in about 75% of men and that in many men it may be caused by a combination of both.

Physical causes
If erectile dysfunction is of a physical cause then the onset is often gradual. These may be:

  • Damage or diseases that affect the nerves which go to or from the penis.
  • Vascular disease.
  • Side effects of medications, such as anti-hypertensive drugs. Sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants may also be a cause.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Too much alcohol, some recreational drugs and heavy smoking.
  • Neurological disease, eg stroke.
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes, kidney failure and liver failure.

Psychological causes
If erectile dysfunction is of sudden onset, this suggests a psychological cause such as:

  • Stress and anxiety either at work or at home
  • Marital conflicts
  • Depression


For more information on erectile dysfunction, please visit the NHS Choices website:

NHS Choices: Impotence