How Uncontrolled Diabetes Can Lead to Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a physical condition that interferes with a man’s ability to attain and sustain an erection. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, it is not uncommon for men who have uncontrollable diabetes. As a matter of fact, men who have sought medical attention first for ED often wind up with a dual diagnosis for both ED and diabetes. It is the same elevated blood glucose levels that cause nerve and blood vessel damage in the body that can lead to nerve and blood flow damage to the penis. If the blood glucose levels aren’t well controlled with diabetes during the illness, the nerve and blood vessel damage will be greater. In addition, the longer a man has had diabetes, the more likely he is to incur ED. Sometimes, prescription medications like Levitra, Cialis and Viagra are used to treat this condition for those who have ED due to diabetes.

Dr. Biljana Musicki of the Brady Urological Institute at John Hopkins has indicated that ED occurs in 50 to 70 percent of men with diabetes. Previous research teams have long suspected that an interruption to the enzyme O-GlcNAc may be the culprit. Dr. Biljana Musicki and Dr. Arthur Burnett were the lead researchers on a team that led a study which focused on the reduced blood vessel function in diabetic men. The team examined rats with diabetes and the overall performance of erection. Erection is a process that begins when the enzyme neuronal nitric oxide (nNOS) is activated. It releases nitric oxide at penile nerve endings. NO causes rapid increase in blood flow, expansion of the penile blood vessels and short-term relaxation of the muscle. The team found that O-GlcNAc inhibited the chain of events involved in erection by stopping the production of nNOS. The process of erection was interrupted without the smooth muscle being able to relax and fuel the production of NO. As a result, there was no sustained erection. When compared with control rats, the diabetic rats’ erectile response was 30 percent less, erections took 70 percent more time to achieve and full erections were 35 percent smaller.

In addition to sexual issues of ED, this research also addressed the overall knowledge of penile health. Dr. Arthur Burnett has studied ED since the 1990s and feels that this study gives more insight into the fundamental vascular and biological mechanisms of the illness diabetes. This research was published in the National Academy of Sciences and is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.


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