Leaky Pipes

Help is available for all types of erectile dysfunction issues


Tom and Jennifer are puzzled and upset. Lately, they've been having a problem in the bedroom that they don't understand. Both understand that men with diabetes have a greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction or "ED," but don't believe that this is Tom's issue. According to what they've heard, ED means that a man can't have an erection. But Tom, who has Type 2 diabetes, can achieve an erection. His problem is that it won't stay around long enough for them to continue with their intimate activities.

If a man develops ED, he has difficulty developing and maintaining an erection. Diabetes, especially when isn't well controlled, can cause this problem to occur. To have a successful erection, three steps must take place:

1. The brain communicates the need for an erection by sending messages through the nerves.

2. Once the message is delivered, blood flows into the penis.

3. After the erection develops, veins close tightly so the blood won't flow back into the body until it is time for the erection to stop.

Most men experience some type of erectile issues at various times in their lives. They can happen for a variety of reasons, including stress, relationship problems, side effects from medications, smoking, marijuana, or even from drinking too much alcohol. If a man has a problem in the bedroom, he doesn't necessarily have ED. His difficulty is only considered "ED" if the problem occurs in more than half of his attempts.

Tom could have an erection, so both he and Jennifer did not realize that he was experiencing a type of ED. His condition is called "venous leakage." The blood flows into the penis without any problem, but leaks back into the body. There are non-diabetes related causes for venous leakage, but diabetes can be a factor.

Individuals with diabetes are at risk for blood vessel problems – they can become damaged and clogged with fatty plaques. In Tom's case, the veins that carry the blood from the penis back to the body are damaged and cannot close tightly anymore. Think of a balloon – when you inflate it with air, you must hold the end securely or the air will seep out and the balloon will deflate.

Tom and Jennifer decided to ask a physician for help. He suggested that they use a simple constriction ring to solve the problem. The flexible ring is placed at the base of the penis and constricts so that blood can't return to the body until the ring is removed. They were relieved to learn that their problem had an easy answer and didn't involve taking any new medication. Once they learned how to use it properly, their issue was resolved.

If you are a man with diabetes and have difficulty performing in the bedroom, speak with someone who can provide you with answers. There is a treatment for each and every man who has ED. Don't stay silent. Speak to your doctor at your next visit.

 Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N


NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.


Last Modified Date: June 20, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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Jamis Roszler
Janis Roszler

Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year.  She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).

Donna Rice
Donna Rice

Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness.  She is the co-author of  Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita).  Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).

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