Conference Coverage

Give guidance, not just Viagra, to men with diabetes and related impotence


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM AADE 16

Diabetic men with erectile dysfunction might consider a prescription for a drug like Viagra to be a permanent cure for a temporary issue: Take a pill, problem solved. But the truth, a leading urologist says, is entirely different.

“If a diabetic patient has erectile dysfunction, it’s not enough to provide Viagra [sildenafil] or Cialis [tadalafil] and then send him on his merry way,” J. Francois Eid, MD, a New York City urologist, said at the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “It’s important to let individuals know the drug has not cured the erectile dysfunction. If patients don’t take care of the diabetes, the erectile dysfunction progresses.”

In an interview, Dr. Eid shared several messages for medical professionals who treat men with diabetes and related erectile dysfunction:

• Diabetes has “devastating” effects on the penis, and may even cause it to shrink.

• Long-term uncontrolled diabetes can make ED permanent.

• While ED drugs often fail in men with diabetes, several other options exist; and penis implants may provide significant relief.

How big is the problem? An estimated 50%-75% of men with diabetes experience from some degree of ED, which is thought to be three times more common in diabetic men than other men, according to Dr. Eid.

Diabetic damage doesn’t stop with these small vessels, he said. “You really have two parallel situations: You need blood flow that feeds the muscle of the penis, and you need an artery dedicated to bringing blood rapidly when a man becomes aroused and wants to be sexually active,” he said. “That artery is also affected by diabetes. They’ll say ‘I can get a partial erection, but I can’t maintain it.’ ”

What comes after an ED diagnosis in diabetic patients? Often, Dr. Eid will instantly refer these men to a cardiologist. “If a patient has diabetes and is newly diagnosed, a significant portion of these men are going to develop coronary artery disease in the next 2-3 years,” he said. “One of the things we do is recommend is that they see a cardiologist and perhaps have a stress test or some sort of evaluation.”

Dr. Eid also urges these patients to treat their diabetes in order to avoid developing ED for life. “They need to manage their diabetes and make sure they control it so the ED will not progress and will stabilize, as a result,” he said. “If the diabetes is controlled after the patient is first diagnosed, then the erections will come back. But if the patient has diabetes for many years, and suddenly decides it’s time to control it, they cannot prevent the damage that’s already been done.”

As for treatments, patients with diabetes and related ED should begin with medications like sildenafil and tadalafil, he recommended. But research findings suggest that the drugs will fail in half of men with type 2 diabetes, he said.

Other options include penile self-injections, vacuum devices, and penile implants.

The injections “can work well and are painless, but men detest having to inject themselves before sexual activity,” Dr. Eid said. And he said men rarely have success using vacuum devices, which are available over the counter.

By contrast, penis implants can successfully treat erectile dysfunction in many cases, Dr. Eid said. Men trigger erections by squeezing a pump that is implanted into the scrotum. Fluid then flows from an implanted reservoir into a cylinder implanted in the penis.

Men are often pleased by penis implants because they can have sex spontaneously without having to plan for it ahead of time, as required by medications. “They’re completely transformed,” Dr. Eid said. “They feel that they’re cured.”

Dr. Eid receives or has received research support/grants from American Medical Systems, Coloplast, Lilly ICOS, Bayer, Vivus, Pharmacia-Upjohn, and Pfizer. He is or was a consultant and on the speakers bureau for Coloplast, American Medical Systems, Lilly ICOS, Bayer and Pfizer.

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