Diabetes is capable of causing erectile dysfunction (ED), which is competent to lead a yet more severe condition, warn experts.
"Most men do not realize that ED is a warning sign of potential cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Timothy Boone, chairman of the department of urology at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.
"As Valentine's Day draws near, many men will be worried about their sexual potency, but they should really be concerned about getting their disease process under control," he said.
People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. The condition is caused by a build-up of plaque on the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrition to the heart. This plaque can restrict blood flow and poor blood flow is the number one cause of ED.
"The blood vessels that carry blood flow to cause an erection are very small, so even the smallest amount of obstructing plaque will present itself as a loss of sexual potency," Boone said.
Boone said in the past, 90 percent of ED cases were thought to be psychological and 10 percent physical. He says the opposite is now true.
Nearly 80 percent of men around the world with diabetes develop ED, compared to nearly 25 percent of those who do not have the disease.
ED normally occurs in men over age 65, but it tends to occur on average 10 to 15 years earlier for men with diabetes. Erectile dysfunction affects more than 300 million men worldwide between the ages of 40 and 70.
Boone urges men to refrain from purchasing male enhancement products from TV infomercials and the like because most are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are very expensive.
He says men should consult with a urologist who can do a proper work up that includes a medical history and blood work to check for disorders like diabetes and low testosterone levels.
He adds once the cause of the underlying problem is determined, steps can be taken to get the condition under control and proper treatment to fix the ED problem with pills or injections can begin.
"If you don't take care of the causes of the problem, your ability to maintain an erection is going to be the least of your concerns," Boone added.