Middle-age men especially were more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes if they suffered from erectile dysfunction, according to the study.
Middle-aged men with erectile dysfunction who have not been diagnosed with diabetes should be screened for the disease, since those with this physical symptom were far more likely to have a condition that may produce few other signs.
A study just published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that among men aged 40 to 59, the likelihood of having undiagnosed diabetes was 1 in 50 for those without erectile dysfunction. But for those with the condition, the likelihood of undiagnosed diabetes increased to 1 in 10 men.
“Our results underscore the importance of erectile dysfunction as a marker of undiagnosed diabetes,” wrote the authors, led by Sean C. Skeldon, MD. “Erectile dysfunction should be a trigger to initiate screening, particularly among middle-aged men.”
The researchers examined cross-sectional data from men aged 20 years and older who took part in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey from 2001 to 2004. Of the 21,161 respondents, the team focused on 4,519 who completed both the interview and the physical exam.
The men were asked if they had erectile dysfunction in a single, validated question. Responses to the question were then associated with the results of the blood pressure readings and cholesterol screenings to determine the relationship between erectile dysfunction and undiagnosed diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.
Those with erectile dysfunction had more than double the odds of having undiagnosed diabetes, while no association was seen for undiagnosed hypertension or hypercholesterolemia.
The authors called for middle-aged men to be made aware of the relationship between erectile dysfunction and diabetes, and for primary care physicians to be more vigilant in asking patients about sexual histories to find patients who may have undiagnosed disease.
The CDC and the American Medical Association currently have a campaign to identify and screen the estimated 89 million Americans with prediabetes, 90% of whom are unaware they have the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cost $245 billion in medical and lost productivity in the United States each year.
Skeldon SC, Detsky AS, Goldenberg SL, Law MR. Erectile dysfunction and undiagnosed diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Ann Fam Med. 2015;13(4):331-335.