Diabetes Self-Management Blog

A new study has found that a significant number of men who have Type 2 diabetes may have low testosterone levels, a condition that can trigger erectile dysfunction but can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy.

The study, published in the April 2007 issue of the journal Diabetes Care, looked at 355 men over the age of 30 who had Type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that 17% of these men had low testosterone levels, and an additional 25% had borderline low levels of the male sex hormone. Obesity, as measured by body-mass index and waist circumference, was strongly associated with low testosterone levels in men.

Of the men in the study who were found to have low testosterone levels, 70% reported erectile dysfunction and 63% reported low sex drive. The major symptoms of low testosterone levels tend to be low sex drive, reduced erection strength, reduced physical strength, fatigue, and changes in mood.

As we revealed in the previous blog entry “Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction: Two New Studies,” erectile dysfunction is reported by about half of men with diabetes, with increasing age being an important factor. Testosterone levels also decline in men with age. Other factors that may play a role in causing erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes are impaired circulation from blood vessel damage and neuropathy, or nerve damage. A combination of factors is often responsible for erectile dysfunction.

Other studies have shown that men with erectile dysfunction who do not improve with use of sildenafil (brand name Viagra) are often found to have low testosterone levels. What’s more, 60% of these men do see improvement when testosterone replacement therapy is added to the sildenafil treatment. Testosterone replacement therapy in men with low testosterone levels and Type 2 diabetes has also been shown to make them more sensitive to insulin, improve their blood glucose control and cholesterol levels, and help them lose weight.

The study’s authors have called for larger studies to see whether testosterone replacement therapy can improve quality of life and diabetes control in men with Type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, if you have Type 2 diabetes and symptoms of low testosterone or erectile dysfunction, you may want to talk with your doctor about having your testosterone level tested. If you are a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy, several options exist, including injections, patches, and gels.

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