What ED May Mean for Diabetes Risk

Erectile dysfunction tied to elevated risk of undiagnosed diabetes

It can be awkward to talk to your doctor about your sex life. But, for many men, problems in the bedroom can be a warning sign for another serious health problem.

A new study from Canada found that men with erectile dysfunction (ED) may have a much higher risk of undiagnosed diabetes than men without ED.

"Our results underscore the importance of erectile dysfunction as a marker of undiagnosed diabetes," wrote lead study author Sean C. Skeldon, MD, of the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver, and colleagues. "Erectile dysfunction should be a trigger to initiate diabetes screening, particularly among middle-aged men."

ED occurs when a man can't get or keep an erection firm enough for sex.

Jeffrey Schussler, MD, a cardiologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas, TX, told dailyRx News, "Erectile dysfunction has a known association with cardiovascular disease. This study highlights the importance, particularly in the primary care arena, to ask patients about these symptoms as it can lead to evaluation and earlier diagnosis of diabetes (which is in itself a strong risk for cardiovascular disease)."

This study looked at the link between ED and the conditions of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Dr. Skeldon and team surveyed almost 6,000 middle-aged Canadian men.

While there seemed to be no link between ED and blood pressure or cholesterol, undiagnosed diabetes was particularly common among these men.

The men with ED had more than double the odds of having undiagnosed diabetes compared with the men without ED.

Dr. Skeldon and team estimated that about 1 in every 10 men with ED has undiagnosed diabetes.

However, because about 1 in every 50 middle-aged men without ED is also estimated to have undiagnosed diabetes, Dr. Skeldon and team recommended that all men — especially those with ED — ask their doctors to be screened for diabetes.

This study was published July 20 in the journal Annals of Family Medicine.

The Western Regional Training Centre for Health Services Research, Vancouver General Hospital, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.