May 31, 2011

How diabetes affects your sexual life

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to complications. In some cases, sexual performance can be affected by diabetes. Up to 50% of men and 25% of women may experience some kind of sexual problems or a loss of sexual desire as a result of diabetes.

I am a diabetic man, what kind of problems could diabetes cause to my sex life?

For men, diabetes can cause damage to the nervous system over a sustained period of time (known as diabetic neuropathy). One aspect of this is the potential for diabetes to damage the erectile tissue leaving it impossible for a man to achieve or maintain an erection.

Almost 33% of men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction. [This] can be the way in which men discover that they have diabetes.

However, through strict management if the disease through diet, exercise, pills and insulin injections, minor sexual problems usually recede and it is possible for the man to achieve and erection.

I am a diabetic woman, what kind of problems could diabetes cause to my sex life?

For some women with diabetes, vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) can be recurrent. Bacterial vaginitis occurs due to yeast infections and thrush is the most common of the conditions. This can make sex painful, and is heralded by itching or burning sensations.

Cystitis can also be a recurrent problem for women with diabetes. Furthermore, some evidence indicates that, in a similar way to men being unable to maintain an erection, the woman’s clitoris may fail to respond to stimulation.

Hypoglycemia and sex

Hypoglycemia can occur during sex. You may also suffer from a night time hypo as the physical exertions of sex mean that in some ways it makes sense to treat intercourse in a similar way to exercise.

However, testing before and after ‘getting it on’ may not help in setting the right mood(!). How you handle blood sugars around sex will come down to personal preference. If you have an understanding partner it certainly helps, but how you handle things yourself is also key.

If you’re in a new relationship, it may be tempting not to tell your partner about your diabetes and you may find yourself taking great pains to hide your diabetes. However, your diabetes will emerge sooner or later so it’s best to be open where possible.

If your partner is reassuring, you may have found yourself a great life partner.

Could my blood sugar level affect my performance?

Having high or low blood glucose levels may lead to you feeling more tired or lethargic and therefore less up for sexual intercourse. In men, high and low blood sugars can affect your ability to maintain erection and achieve ejaculation. In the case of hypoglycemia, this is usually easy to remedy, although it may spoil the mood.

I am worried about my diabetes’ effects on my sex life, what should I do?

The initial action one should take it to contact your doctor and discuss it with him. Often, these issues can only be addressed by seeking professional help. Most doctors are used to discussing these types of issues, and will aim to assess whether your problems are physical or psychological in nature.

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