Diabetic Neuropathy – A Common Cause Of ED
The brain maintains healthy connection and communication with rest of the body via intricate system of nerves and neurons. You may think that erection is a simple emotional reflex that starts when a beautiful woman walks-by you or even pass a sexy smile; but in reality process of erection is stepwise and highly detailed.
- The sight of a gorgeous lady is a sexual stimulus which is processed in the brain.
- The brain cells then send signals to the autonomic nervous system.
- The neurotransmitters released, elicits the relaxation of smooth muscle cells (resulting in dilatation/ widening of blood vessels that supplies genital region).
- This increased blood circulation towards penis leads to penile erection.
- Under normal circumstances, unless the man ejaculates, these veins remain constricted to keep the blood pooled in penile sinuses for sustained erection.
The extensive network of signals and neuronal reflexes which connects the brain with genitals and the brain must function properly so that the sexual activities can be performed without any hindrance. If nerve gets damaged, it will interfere with the transmission of sexual signals and even though a person is sexually excited, there won’t be any erection. Among various nervous system disorders, one is neuropathy which may present with erectile dysfunction.
What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a term that signifies injury or damage to the nerves. Among different types of neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy is mainly responsible for erectile dysfunction in men. Peripheral neuropathy affect organs like hands, feet and penis. It is also categorized as autonomic neuropathy because it interferes with the involuntary actions i.e. actions that takes place without our thinking or conscious control. For example, breathing, erection and digestion.
There are several etiological factors that may lead to neuropathy and erectile dysfunction. Most common ones are;
- Disorders of endocrine glands, e.g. Diabetes
- Blood vessel disease (such as atherosclerosis)
- Injury to genitals
- Cancer or cancer treatment, specially chemotherapy
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
Diabetic Neuropathy And Erectile Dysfunction
Nerve damage due to chronic, uncontrolled diabetes is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. Men with diabetes are at high risk of developing erectile dysfunction. According to a new study, diabetic males tend to develop erectile dysfunction 10-15 years earlier than their counterparts. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that 60-70% of diabetic males have some degree of neuropathy that may present with mild to moderate sexual dysfunction. The pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction and uncontrolled diabetes is linked with nervous damage caused by high sugar levels in blood that distorts the signals between brain and genitals. It can also damage the nerve vessels resulting in reduced blood flow towards penis.
Treatment Of Neuropathy
Some degree of nerve restoration and regeneration is possible if appropriate management options are adopted in time. Such as, treating an ongoing infection, reducing the consumption of alcohol to lessen the toxic load and keeping blood sugar levels in control. All these approaches can be helpful in repairing the damaged nerves. Diabetes can be managed by consuming hypoglycemic drugs, consuming a low carbohydrate and low fat diet and indulging in functional exercises and physical activities.
Besides natural solutions, there are a number of pharmacological remedies such as sildenafil citrate that can address your sexual complaints in the presence of diabetic neuropathy induced erectile dysfunction. According to a study reported in the Diabetologia journal (3), investigators suggested that sildenafil citrate is well-tolerated and is highly effective for the management of erectile dysfunction in diabetic males.
Reduce The risk
- The risk of neuropathy can be reduced by adopting a healthy life style. If you drink excessive alcohol, you may have a hard time controlling your blood sugar levels. It is recommended to cut down your alcohol intake slowly.
- Smoking can aggravate the risk of developing neuropathy as cigarette smoke is known to cause inflammation of tiny blood vessels that support and nourishes the nerves. Consult a doctor and join smoke cessation groups or go for counseling.
- Make physical activities such as swimming, running or exercise a part of your normal routine.
- Consume a healthy and balanced diet. Try to keep your blood sugar levels in limit and follow your doctor’s instructions.
To conclude, sustained erection requires strong physical, hormonal and emotional signals. Therefore, acquire a healthy lifestyle. This will not only prevent you from various diseases but will also prove helpful in improving your sex life!
1. Martin, C. L., Albers, J. W., Pop-Busui, R., & DCCT/EDIC research group. (2014). Neuropathy and related findings in the diabetes control and complications trial/epidemiology of diabetes interventions and complications study. Diabetes Care, 37(1), 31-38.
2. Cellek, S., Cameron, N. E., Cotter, M. A., & Muneer, A. (2013). Pathophysiology of diabetic erectile dysfunction: potential contribution of vasa nervorum and advanced glycation endproducts. International journal of impotence research, 25(1), 1-6.
3. Boulton, A. J. M., Selam, J. L., Sweeney, M., & Ziegler, D. (2001). Sildenafil citrate for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men with type II diabetes mellitus. Diabetologia, 44(10), 1296-1301.