Depression May Cause Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men with Type 1

A study finds more than one-third of young men with Type 1 experience ED, and that depression might be a big factor.



Some sex therapists who work with the diabetes population believe that erectile dysfunction (ED) in men with Type 1 was largely the result of glucose control issues. Now, a team of Italian researchers are suggesting that depression might be more of a risk factor for ED than glucose fluctuations, at least with young men with Type 1.

According to a Reuters report, the researchers crunched data obtained from 151 men (ages 18-35) with Type 1 diabetes. They found that 37 percent of the study participants reported having experienced ED; that was more than five times the rate of ED reported among control group participants who did not have Type 1 diabetes. Of those who said they had experienced ED, 82 percent experienced mild to moderate ED, with only 18 percent saying they had moderate to severe ED.

The study attempted to see if there was any difference in ED rates among those who were on insulin pump therapy and those who used multiple daily injections, but researchers didn’t find a significant statistical difference. The researchers then analyzed the data further to try and find other factors that would influence ED risk.

Fasting glucose levels and weight, two reliable markers for determining ED, did not seem to make a statistical difference. However, the researchers found that those who self-reported depressive symptoms during the study were more likely to also report ED. Researcher Dr. Maria Ida Maiorino from Second University of Naples said that this led the researchers to believe that psychological issues were more likely to put young men with Type 1 at risk of ED than physiological issues.

The results of this study should be taken with caution. While the study size is relatively large for studies involving people with Type 1, it’s still hard to draw conclusive proof of a trend in sexual dysfunction from just 151 participants. Further follow-up will likely be needed before researchers can conclusively determine if depression is more of a risk factor than glucose control for ED risk in young men with Type 1. Also, even if these results are proven conclusive, they still only focus on ED risk in young men with Type 1 diabetes, and do not rule out glucose control as a long-term risk for ED.

Multiple studies have shown that people with Type 1 are more prone to depression than the average population. Ironically, researchers believe that heightened risk of depression might be partly a result of glucose fluctuations, which would mean that a “depression vs. glucose control for ED risk” debate would become something of a chicken-or-the-egg argument.

However preliminary these findings are, they serve as another reminder that depression can pose a significant hurdle to people with Type 1 diabetes. If you believe that you may have depression, seek help from a qualified clinician. Treatment may help your glucose control, quality of life, and even your sex life.

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.