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SLU Research: Erectile Dysfunction Linked to Undiagnosed Prediabetes, Type 2 Diabetes in Young Men

by Bridjes O'Neil
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Bridjes O'Neil
Communications Specialist

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ST. LOUIS — Erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common in older individuals with long-term Type 2 diabetes. However, emerging research at Saint Louis University School of Medicine has found that ED indicates undiagnosed prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in young men under 40. 

Although the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes declined in the United States from 1988 to 2020, 2.5% of the population has persistent undiagnosed diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 8.5 million adults have undiagnosed diabetes, and a quarter of these cases are among young persons 18 to 44.

An exterior bird's eye view of a building on a sunny day.

Schwitalla Hall. SLU file photo.

In a recent study published in Preventive Medicine, Jane Tucker, M.D., associate professor of family and community medicine at SLU, and Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., professor of family and community medicine at SLU and a member of the Saint Louis University AHEAD Institute, examined data to look at the connection between type 2 diabetes and ED.  

Researchers designed the study to determine the risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes among young men with and without new ED diagnoses and the time between a new ED diagnosis and the onset of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

This retrospective study reviewed the electronic health data of 1,915,468 patients from 2008-22.  

The study found that ED patients have a 34% increased risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, 75% of patients developed prediabetes or type 2 diabetes within a year of ED diagnosis.

“This indicates a remarkable ability to predict the potential onset of illness and treat it early with lifestyle or medication,” Tucker said.

Funds to maintain the virtual data warehouse came from the Saint Louis University Research Institute, comprising de-identified patient data from more than 5 million SSM Health patients. Researchers at SLU’s AHEAD Institute maintained the data resource and supported the study through analytics and data management. Saint Louis University is a Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN) member. HCSRN and its health-system members provide an exponential increase in opportunities for grant funding and collaboration on various research topics such as aging, heart disease, and mental health.

Other authors include Joanne Salas, MPH, of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Saint Louis University, Harry S. Truman Veterans Administration Medical Center, Columbia, Mo., and the Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Research Institute at SLU; Scott Secrest, MPH, of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Saint Louis University.

About AHEAD Institute

The Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Research Institute at Saint Louis University is a comprehensive center for data-driven innovation and research to improve the health of individuals and populations. The institute brings together researchers from various fields and disciplines to help improve patient and population health, advance the quality of health care and decrease health care costs. The new institute will utilize and develop data resources, novel analytic methods, predictive modeling, machine learning, and integrated wearable health devices and collaborate with national research networks.

About SLU School of Medicine

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.