New Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus

Drugs. 2004;64(23):2667-88. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200464230-00004.

Abstract

Erection is a neurovascular event that involves spinal and supra spinal pathways. The final common pathway involves the release of nitric oxide (NO) from both endothelial cells and neurons, which acts as a vasodilator causing penile engorgement and erection. NO is degraded by the enzyme phosphodiesterase (PDE) type 5 in the penis. Erectile dysfunction (ED), defined as the persistent inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance, results when the neurovascular pathway is interrupted by medical conditions or drugs. A 15-item self-administered questionnaire, the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), is one of the most useful tools to evaluate erectile function (EF) in clinical trials, although of much less use in routine clinical practice. The MMAS (Massachusetts Male Aging Study) was the first major epidemiological investigation to study the prevalence of ED. The study found that ED was three times more common in patients with diabetes mellitus. The aetiopathogenesis of ED in diabetes is multifactorial, with vascular and neural factors being equally implicated. Hyperglycaemia is believed to give rise to biochemical perturbations that lead to these microvascular changes. In the MMAS, ED in diabetes was strongly correlated with glycaemic control, duration of disease and diabetic complications. The incidence increased with increasing age, duration of diabetes and deteriorating metabolic control, and was higher in individuals with type 2 diabetes than those with type 1.ED in men with diabetes often affects their quality of life and, as patients are often reluctant to come forward with their symptoms, a carefully taken history is one of the most useful approaches in identifying affected individuals. The PDE inhibitors have revolutionised the management of ED and oral drug therapy is currently first-line therapy for the condition. These agents act by potentiating the action of intracavernosal NO, thereby leading to a more sustained erection. Sildenafil was the first PDE5 inhibitor to undergo evaluation and has been studied extensively. More recently two other agents, vardenafil and tadalafil, have been introduced. All the drugs have been shown to be effective across a wide range of aetiologies of ED, including diabetes. The drugs have been shown to improve EF domain scores, penetration and maintenance of erection, resulting in more successful intercourse. Their effects are greater at higher doses. Sildenafil and vardenafil are shorter-acting agents, while tadalafil has a longer half-life allowing the user more flexibility in sexual activity. Common adverse effects include headache, nasal congestion and dyspepsia, all actions related to inhibition of PDE5. The drugs are generally well tolerated and withdrawal from the clinical studies as a result of drug-related adverse effects were rare. The use of PDE5 inhibitors in the presence of oral nitrates is absolutely contraindicated. The clinical studies to date have not evaluated the use of one drug in the case of treatment failure with another agent. Sublingual apomorphine, which stimulates central neurogenic pathways, is a new agent and may be a suitable alternative in those patients in whom PDE5 inhibitors are ineffective or contraindicated. In clinical trials, all IIEF domains except sexual desire were found to have improved after apomorphine. The median times to erection in these studies were 18.9 and 18.8 minutes for the 2 and 3mg doses, respectively. Intraurethral and intracavernosal alprostadil may be a useful alternative when oral drug therapy is ineffective or contraindicated. The management of ED in the diabetic patient may often involve a multidisciplinary approach where psychosexual counselling and specialist urologist advice is required in addition to the skills and expertise of the diabetologist. Finally, the introduction of the new oral agents have completely revolutionised the management of ED and allowed more individuals to come forward for treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Apomorphine / adverse effects
  • Apomorphine / pharmacokinetics
  • Apomorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / complications
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / drug therapy
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Piperazines / adverse effects
  • Piperazines / pharmacokinetics
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use*
  • Prevalence
  • Purines
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones

Substances

  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Apomorphine