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Men With Erectile Dysfunction Should Be Tested For Diabetes

1 in 10 men between the ages of 40 and 59 reporting ED had undiagnosed diabetes in a recent study…

Results of a recent study indicate that erectile dysfunction, particularly in middle-aged men, may be a strong indicator of diabetes. The findings highlight the importance for providers to screen any patient with ED symptoms for diabetes. An estimated one in three people with diabetes are undiagnosed as symptoms of glucose impairment can appear gradually and often go unnoticed. Recognizing the association between ED and diabetes could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention, improving patient outcomes.

Researchers set out to determine how strong of an indicator ED is for undiagnosed hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes. Their findings showed that ED was not a significant indicator of hypercholesterolemia (adj OR= 0.67; 95% CI=0.42-1.07) or hypertension (adj OR = 1.27; 95% CI= 0.87-1.85), but was strongly associated with diabetes (adj OR= 2.20; 95% CI=1.10-4.37). The association was strongest in men aged 40 to 59 years old, where 1 in 10 men with ED had undiagnosed diabetes compared to 1 in 50 men in this age group without ED.

Awareness that ED may be a symptom of diabetes has important implications, as the study’s authors point to research that indicates men are less likely than women to seek preventative care. They could, however, be more likely to seek treatment for ED as it is a recognizable condition with well-known pharmaceutical treatment options. Providers treating a patient for ED are in the position to provide screening that the patient may not otherwise seek out.

In addition, the authors suggest that all physicians should ask patients about their sexual health, as some men may be reluctant to initiate the conversation. Recognizing ED as a strong indicator of diabetes provides an opportunity for screening and diagnosis to a patient who could otherwise remain an undiagnosed statistic.

Practice Pearls:

  • Erectile dysfunction is strongly associated with undiagnosed diabetes.
  • The association between erectile dysfunction and diabetes is strongest in middle-aged men.
  • All non-diabetic men reporting erectile dysfunction should be screened for diabetes.

Skeldon SC, Detsky AS, Goldenberg SL, Law MR. “Erectile dysfunction and undiagnosed diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.” Annals of Family Medicine. Jul/Aug 2015. 13(4): 331-335.