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Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and CVD in Joslin Medalists with Type 1 Diabetes

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be a marker for cardiovascular disease in men with type 1 diabetes, researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center have found.

Type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the body does not make insulin, a hormone that processes sugar and starches into energy. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 5% of people with diabetes have type 1.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Cardiovascular disease is sometimes called heart disease. One of the hallmarks of cardiovascular disease is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can be triggered by diabetes. When this happens, material called plaque collects in the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to pass through.

Atherosclerosis can be a big problem for men. To have a firm erection, blood needs to flow into the penis. But if penile arteries are blocked by atherosclerosis, there won’t be enough blood flowing in. This leads to a weak erection.

Erectile Dysfunction and CVD

ED is considered a marker for cardiovascular disease because penile arteries are often among the first to be blocked. These arteries are small, so they can develop atherosclerosis more quickly than larger arteries.<

However, the Joslin researchers noted that people with type 1 diabetes tend to have fewer problems with smaller blood vessels. They wanted to more information on how ED for men with type 1 diabetes might predict cardiovascular disease.

The study included 301 men who were Joslin Medalists, a designation given to people who have had type 1 diabetes for 50 years or more. Their mean age was approximately 72 years old. The men completed questionnaires about their health and sexual function.

Almost 70% of the men had had some degree of sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. Overall, just over half had cardiovascular disease. The rate of cardiovascular disease was higher for men who had sexual dysfunction.

The researchers found that ED is “independently associated” with cardiovascular disease in men with type 1 diabetes. Sexual dysfunction could predict cardiovascular disease in these men, even if they tend to have fewer problems with smaller blood vessels.

Early detection of cardiovascular is important, the researchers explained.

“If [sexual dysfunction] is an overt problem that drives a man to go to the doctor, it should clue the doctor to take a look at some possible cardiovascular symptoms before anything major and life threatening arises,” said study coordinator Sara Turek in a news release.

The study was published online ahead of print in June in the journal Diabetes Care.


American Diabetes Association

“Diabetes Basics – Type 1”

Diabetes Care

Turek, Sarah, MPH, et al.

“Sexual Dysfunction as a Marker of Cardiovascular Disease in Males With 50 or More Years of Type 1 Diabetes”

(Full-text. Published online before print: June 18, 2013)

Joslin Diabetes Center

“Joslin Study Finds Connection Between Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease in Joslin Medalists”

(News release. June 26, 2013)