People with diabetes are far more likely to suffer from sexual problems and the anxiety and frustration that come as part of the territory. But you don’t have to suffer in silence.
“I first noticed my erection problems about two years ago,” says Paul, 38, who has had Type 2 Diabetes for five years and needs to use insulin five times a day. “My partner and I have always enjoyed a loving and active sex life. At first I questioned our relationship. Did I still find her attractive? Had the relationship changed in some way? Through sheer process of elimination, I came to realise the problem was mechanical.”
Paul is one of half of all men with diabetes who experience erection problems or Erectile Dysfunction (ED) at some stage in their lives. ED is a common complication of diabetes and is caused by damage to the nerves in the penis – with your risk increasing as you get older. And unfortunately, ED often triggers anxiety and confusion, which makes matters even worse.
“In the past, I have never had any problems getting an erection. So it came as quite a surprise,” says Paul. “Luckily, my partner and I talk freely about everything and we were able to discuss the problem without too many inhibitions. I reassured her it was nothing to do with her and that I thought it was linked to my diabetes.”
He was right. Men with diabetes are three times more likely to experience ED, and unlike men who don’t have diabetes, over 80 per cent of cases are caused by physical rather than psychological factors.
Twenty five per cent of all women with diabetes and about 50 per cent of men will experience some kind of sexual problems or loss of sexual desire as a result of their condition, and like men, women with diabetes report significantly more problems with sexual dysfunction than women without diabetes.
Paul was lucky to be part of such an open and understanding relationship, as many couples shy away from talking about the problem due to embarrassment, frustration or feelings of guilt, especially if the cause is not understood. Research has shown that 30 per cent of men with diabetes don’t know that ED is a common complication, while almost half do know, but believe that ED is inevitable with age and that there is nothing they can do to prevent or treat it. Plus, a recent international study for the British Journal of Urology revealed that five per cent of men with erectile dysfunction also have undiagnosed diabetes – over 750,000 people in the UK currently have diabetes but don’t yet know it.
But for men with ED, there is no reason to suffer in silence, as effective treatment is readily available.
“I have a light-hearted relationship with my diabetes team so I didn’t have a problem speaking to them about it. The next time I was due for a doctor’s appointment, I told my GP about the erectile problems,” says Paul. “She was very helpful and gave me a list of the drugs available and I opted for Cialis.”
It didn’t take long for Paul to get used to the tablets. “I take one about half an hour before I think we might have sex,” he says. “More than 50 per cent of the time I can do without the tablets, but it’s good to know they are there as a back up. One tablet lasts for about 36 hours. I haven’t suffered any side effects and although it slightly takes the spontaneity away, our sex life is as active and healthy as ever.”
Source: Keep the Doctor Away, UK