Understanding the Link Between ED & Chronic Illness

The First Line of Defense and Early Conversations

In today’s current healthcare structure, primary care physicians are often the first stop for many patients on their wellness journey. Primary care, by nature, generally involves a single visit to learn more about a patient, their medical concerns or complaints, and lastly, their physical needs.

Generally, issues that involve quality of life, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), fall lower on the priority list for both doctors and patients to address. This is especially true when the topic involves sexual function. 

Additionally, the majority of men with ED do not often initiate a medical conversation about their sexual difficulties. In a survey by Ipsos Public Affairs and Eli Lilly, 40% of men with ED said they choose not to speak to their doctors about their struggles. 1

Clinicians should strive to understand and recognize that hesitation in patients. If erectile function becomes a long-term issue, it can cause stress, affect self-confidence, and diminish quality of life for patients. 2 There are additional implications to consider in ED patients. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of many underlying severe medical conditions.  

Heart Disease & Erectile Dysfunction

Many doctors consider sexual functionality as the barometer to gauge a man’s overall health. In some cases, diseases are closely linked with ED symptoms. 

ED can be associated with heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other medical and psychological concerns. Additionally, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, issues with the prostate, and low testosterone are all causes linked to ED. 3

This is true for vascular disorders, especially hyperlipidemia and hypertension. It could be argued that the connection between ED with neurologic and vascular symptoms warrants using symptoms and the pervasiveness of ED as predetermination for screening these disorders, especially if they weren’t previously identified. 4

Perhaps, the correlation between obesity, diabetes, and impotence can be the most significant indicator of patient health in the correlation between obesity, diabetes, and impotence. Studies have shown that obesity significantly increases the likelihood of diabetes and high blood pressure. In turn, these conditions are interconnected with heart disease. For example, patients with diabetes are at higher risk for severe heart diseases, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure. 5 Likewise, patients with obesity have a risk factor three times greater for a heart attack than those of average weight. 6

However, according to research published by R. Tamle in the National Library of Medicine, ED in men with diabetes and obesity may be a forerunner of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 7

In a second study published by the Department of Medicine at S.P. Medical College, it was found that erectile dysfunction in type-2 diabetes may be an indicator of coronary artery disease. This study found that erectile dysfunction was prevalent in 36% of study participants with type-2 diabetes. 8

Taking Notice Early On

Although more research is needed to determine if ED leads to the development of other conditions, the overwhelming connection between ED and serious medical problems is reason enough for primary care practitioners and clinicians alike to take notice of symptoms. 

Because primary care physicians are often the first to have ED conversations with patients, keeping the connection to ED and chronic diseases top of mind could lead to additional health discoveries. Treatment and management of all risk factors will not only improve erectile dysfunction but also prevent the onset of more severe diseases. 

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Sources: 

1. https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/ed-conversation-dilemma-forty-percent-men-ed-dont-talk-their

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC1557658/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC1557658/

4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20355776

5. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/diabetes-complications-and-risks/cardiovascular-disease–diabetes

6. https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg

7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19318216/

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC2839128/