There appears to be a connection between erectile dysfunction (ED) and peripheral neuropathy, according to Spanish researchers.
Their study, published in the December 2011 issue of BJU International, involved 90 men recruited from the Department of Andrology at the Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias in Oviedo, Spain. All of the participants reported sexual problems and their average age was 54 years.
To assess erectile dysfunction, researchers used the five-item version of the International Index of Erectile Dysfunction (IIEF-5). Patients who score lower on the IIEF-5 tend to have more erectile difficulties than men who score higher.
The researchers also considered risk factors for ED, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and issues with nerves or the nervous system.
To determine the extent of peripheral neuropathy, researchers used the Neuropathy Symptom Score and conducted neurophysiology tests.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system. This system sends messages back and forth between the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to nerves in other parts of the body, such as the hand or foot.
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of conditions, such as physical trauma, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, and infections. Symptoms depend on the location of the nerve damage. Impaired sexual function is one symptom, however, and may be linked to nerve damage in the pelvis.
About 61% of the men in the study had peripheral neuropathy. About 38% had polyneuropathy, which means there is damage to multiple nerves in the body, preventing them from working properly.
The researchers found that patients with more severe peripheral neuropathy tended to score lower on the IIEF-5, indicating that their erectile function was worse than others. These patients needed more aggressive treatment.
“By combining feedback from patients with a series of neurophysiological
tests we have been able to demonstrate that peripheral neuropathy is highly
prevalent in patients with ED,” said lead author Dr. Consuelo Valles-Antuña in a BJUI press release.
“Our findings suggest that clinicians should carry out neurophysiological tests
on patients with ED, paying particular attention to the pelvic area,” Dr. Valles-Atuña added.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
“Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet”
(Page last updated: August 10, 2011)
“Erectile Dysfunction Study Shows High Prevalence of Peripheral Neuropathy”
(Press Release – November 15, 2011)
Valles-Antuña, Consuelo, et al.
“Peripheral neuropathy: an underdiagnosed cause of erectile dysfunction”
(Abstract – First published online May 18, 2011)