Denver Urologists Explain Link Between Diabetes, Heart Disease and Erectile Dysfunction

Chronic conditions and co-morbidities are highly linked to erectile dysfunction. Here are some of the most common health problems that can cause ED:

  • Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction: At least 50 percent of men with diabetes experience ED. That’s because out-of-control blood sugar can create two problems — nerve damage and blood vessel damage —which can impact your ability to get and maintain an erection. Nerve damage interferes with your ability to get an erection from sexual stimulation, while damage to blood vessels affects blood flow to the penis. ED may be the first symptom of type 2 diabetes for some men, before they even know they have the disease.
  • Heart Disease and Erectile Dysfunction: Atherosclerosis, hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels, can narrow the smaller arteries in the penis years before other heart disease symptoms appear. According to, erectile dysfunction (ED) precedes coronary artery disease (CAD) in almost 70 percent of cases. For some men, ED could actually be the first sign that they have heart disease. One large study, published in the journal Circulation, found that men who have ED are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure than other men.
  • High Blood Pressure and Erectile Dysfunction: Over time, chronic hypertension can cause blood vessel damage and hardening of the arteries, which reduces blood flow to the penis. Plus, two common types of medication that men take to control high blood pressure can have side effects that cause ED. Diuretics interfere with erections by reducing blood flow to the penis. They also can lower a man’s natural production of the hormone testosterone by depleting the body of zinc. Some types of beta blockers also can cause ED by restricting blood flow to the penis. Alpha blockers and calcium channel blockers are often used to treat high blood pressure and reportedly have fewer sexual function side effects, such as erectile dysfunction.
  • Depression and Erectile Dysfunction: There are several ways that depression can lead to ED. First, because the urge to have sex starts in the brain, men with depression may not produce the neurotransmitters needed to stimulate blood flow to the penis. Also, many anti-depressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), affect these same brain chemicals, leading to ED. And lastly, stress, self-esteem issues, and other issues stemming from depression can lead to relationship issues that affect your sexual desire and ability to get an erection.
  • Other Conditions Linked to Erectile Dysfunction: ED also has been linked to anxiety, kidney disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.

For men with erectile dysfunction in Denver who have one of more of these chronic health conditions, different ED treatment options are available including medications, injections and suppositories, and penile implants.