Sexual dysfunction in diabetes

Handb Clin Neurol. 2014:126:223-32. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53480-4.00017-5.


We aimed to summarize the etiology, clinical characteristics, diagnosis, and possible treatment options of sexual dysfunction in diabetic patients of both sexes. Details of dysfunction in diabetic women are less conclusive than in men due to the lack of standardized evaluation of sexual function in women. Male sexual dysfunction is a common complication of diabetes, including abnormalities of orgasmic/ejaculatory function and desire/libido in addition to penile erection. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED) among diabetic men varies from 35% to 75%. Diabetes-induced ED has a multifactorial etiology including metabolic, neurologic, vascular, hormonal, and psychological components. ED should be regarded as the first sign of cardiovascular disease because it can be present before development of symptomatic coronary artery disease, as larger coronary vessels better tolerate the same amount of plaque compared to smaller penile arteries. The diagnosis of ED is based on validated questionnaires and determination of functional and organic abnormalities. First-, second- and third-line therapy may be applied. Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitor treatment from the first-line options leads to smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and enhancement in blood flow, resulting in erection during sexual stimulus. The use of PDE-5 inhibitors in the presence of oral nitrates is strictly contraindicated in diabetic men, as in nondiabetic subjects. All PDE-5 inhibitors have been evaluated for ED in diabetic patients with convincing efficacy data. Second-line therapy includes intracavernosal, trans- or intraurethral administration of vasoactive drugs or application of a vacuum device. Third-line therapies are the implantation of penile prosthesis and penile revascularization.

Keywords: Princeton guidelines; Sexual dysfunction; artery size hypothesis; erectile dysfunction; phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Erectile Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Erectile Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Erectile Dysfunction / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / diagnosis*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy


  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors