This leaflet explains what you need to know about impotence as someone with diabetes. It covers what the causes are and the available treatment.


Impotence means not being able to have or keep an erection for long enough to have sexual intercourse.
Impotence is more common in people with diabetes, especially if it is poorly controlled.
There are a wide range of treatments available and many people who can help you.

What causes impotence?

  • Smoking, heavy drinking and some illegal drugs
  • Some medicines used to treat high blood pressure or depression
  • Operations to the bowel, bladder or prostate
  • Lack of testosterone
  • Stress, anxiety, depression, marital problems, guilt and fear of failure
  • Diabetes can damage the blood supply and nerves to the penis

Impotence affects both people in a relationship. Talking to your partner can lead to more understanding about how you both feel, improve the situation and you can decide if you want to seek help.

Seeking help 

  • Approach your diabetes nurse or doctor
  • They may be able to help you themselves or may refer you to a specialist
  • It helps if you and your partner can attend together to discuss the problem
  • Counselling and advice is available
  • Changing medication may be suggested


Sildenafil (known as Viagra)
This is a tablet taken before intercourse, which can help you to have an erection if you become aroused. It is not suitable for everyone, e.g. those on certain tablets for the heart. Vardenafil and tadalafil are similar alternatives.

Self-injection therapy
You can inject a drug into your penis before intercourse. This increases the blood supply to your penis to produce an erection

Intraurethral therapy
This is a small pellet inserted into the end of the penis. This increases the blood supply to the penis to produce an erection

Vacuum therapy

You place a rigid tube over your penis and use a pump to empty the air out of the tube. This causes blood to be drawn into the penis and a ring is put at the base of your penis to maintain your erection during intercourse

Occasionally an operation is used to renew the blood supply to your penis or to implant a rod to make your penis erect enough for penetration


If you are found to be lacking testosterone, then testosterone replacement therapy administered through a medical specialist may be beneficial

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