Sperling Prostate Center

Is Erectile Dysfunction a Sign of Diabetes in Younger Men?

Fact: It’s estimated that 52%, or 18 million American men aged 40 –70 years, are affected with some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED).[i]

Fact: Though the incidence of ED increases as men age, some research finds ED rates of 8% among men aged 20–29 years and 11% among those aged 30–39 years.[ii]

Fact: According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, data for 2017-2020 indicate that 38% of U.S. adults age 18 and over have prediabetes.

Fact: Prediabetes, a condition picked up by a blood test for fasting glucose, puts a man at risk for developing type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease and stroke).

And here’s one more fact: symptoms of diabetes are mostly the same for men and women, but there are some symptoms that only men will have. One of them is erectile dysfunction, or ED.

The incidence of both diabetes and ED increases as men age, especially over age 45. ED itself is a common complication of type 2 diabetes due to a combination of several factors including damage to nerves and blood vessels, and less blood flow. Thus, ED is about 3.5 times more prevalent in men with diabetes than healthy men. But if you think it’s only a problem for older men, think again.

A September 2023 article in the journal Preventive Medicine presents blunt news about the relationship between erectile dysfunction in younger men and prediabetes.[iii] The four authors, all from St. Louis University School of Medicine, tapped into their large Virtual Data Warehouse (VDW) which gave them access to over 1,900,000 de-identified records of men who had at least one clinical encounter from 1/1/2008 to the present. Their research focused on men 18-40 years of age, and on correlations between ED, prediabetes and diabetes. Their findings are sobering:

  • Erectile dysfunction is associated with a 34% increased risk for prediabetes/diabetes.
  • 75% of patients with ED developed prediabetes/diabetes within a year of erectile dysfunction diagnosis.

Thus, they concluded that in younger men, ED is a warning of diabetes risk. One news source quotes author Jane Tucker as declaring, “This indicates a remarkable ability to predict the potential onset of illness and treat it early with lifestyle or medication.”

The most important takeaway is the need for blood sugar screening when younger men see a doctor for ED. There are many causes for sexual dysfunction in men age 40 or younger, so it’s important to rule prediabetes in or out since it has a significant bearing on lifestyle changes and treatment plans. Diabetes is preventable. At the Sperling Prostate Center, we feel it’s important to bring such timely news to our younger readers.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Feldman, H.A., Goldstein, I., McKinlay, J.B., Hatzichristou, D.G., Krane, R.J., 1994. Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates in men aged 40– 70: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J. Urol. 151, 54–61.
[ii] Rosen RC, Fisher WA, Eardley I et al. Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (MALES) Study. The multinational Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (MALES) study: I. Prevalence of erectile dysfunction and related health concerns in the general population. Curr Med Res Opin. 2004 May;20(5):607-17.
[iii] Tucker J, Salas J, Secrest S, Scherrer JF. Erectile dysfunction associated with undiagnosed prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in young adult males: A retrospective cohort study. Prev Med. 2023 Sep;174:107646.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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