Surprising Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Sex Life

Post Date: September 2015  |  Category: Diabetes

Did you know that people with diabetes have a higher chance of experiencing sexual problems compared to people without diabetes? Having high blood sugar over a period of time can cause low sexual desire, inability to get an erection, painful sex, and even difficulty having an orgasm.  Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these issues.

Why and How Does Diabetes Affect Sexual Function?

Higher-than-normal blood sugar levels from diabetes can cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels and nerves throughout the body.  The sexual organs have many small blood vessels and a high concentration of nerves, which is why diabetes can affect sexual function. Damage to small blood vessels of the penis, vagina, and clitoris can slow blood flow, causing decreased arousal and pleasurable sensations. Damage to nerves, called diabetic neuropathy, can cause erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, difficulty having an orgasm, and increased sensitivity to touch, all of which can make sex uncomfortable or painful.

Ongoing high blood sugar from diabetes can also impact hormones that affect erectile function, sexual drive, and overall energy levels. Testosterone, a hormone that drives sexual interest in both men and women, is often lower in men with diabetes.

Women with diabetes may be more prone to having painful sex due to the increased risk for urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. For some women, an increase in these infections can be a sign that their blood sugar levels are not in good control.

Medications commonly taken by people with diabetes, such as heart or blood pressure medicines, can also affect sexual function.

Getting Help for Sexual Issues Caused by Diabetes

It may seem awkward to bring up concerns about sex with your doctor. But your doctor has heard just about everything and can provide solutions that may help. Here are some ways people deal with sexual problems caused by diabetes:

  • Work with your doctor on adjusting or changing medicines or medicine doses to improve blood sugar control
  • Check with your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist to determine if any of your medications could be causing sexual dysfunction as a side effect
  • Make changes to diet and physical activity to further control blood sugar
  • Ask your doctor about medications that help sexual function, such as PDE5 inhibitors (e.g. Cialis®, Viagra®); testosterone injection or gels; and injectable medications or suppositories.
  • Use home remedies or products such as bottled lubricant, vibrators, pumps, or penile restrictor bands
  • Take more time for foreplay
  • Go to counseling focused on sexual problems

If you are noticing problems related to sex, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor because there are often ways to deal with these issues. Also, it’s important to know that other things, such as depression, anxiety, or drinking large amounts of alcohol, can affect sexual interest and performance. Your doctor may be able to help sort out the cause and offer possible solutions.  

Sources

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the Evaluation and Treatment of Male Sexual Dysfunction: A Couple’s Problem--2003 Update, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Male Sexual Dysfunction Task Force: Endocr Pract. 2003; 9:77-95 https://www.aace.com/files/sexdysguid.pdf

Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction: Current Perspectives, Maiorino MI, Bellastella G, Esposito K:. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2014.7: 95-105.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949699/

Erectile Dysfunction in Diabetes Mellitus, UpToDate: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/erectile-dysfunction-in-diabetes-mellitus?source=search_result&search=sexual+dysfunction+in+diabetes&selectedTitle=1%7E150

Erectile Dysfunction and Undiagnosed Diabetes, Hypertension, and Hypercholesterolemia. Skeldon SC, Detsky AS, Goldenberg LS, et al. Ann Fam Med. July/Aug 2015; 13(4); 331-335.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26195677

Sex and Diabetes: What You Wanted to Know, American Diabetes Association:  http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2012/nov/sex-and-diabetes-what-you-wanted-to-know.html

Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:  http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/sexual-urologic-problems-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx

Sexual Dysfunction and Diabetes, Joslin Diabetes Center: http://www.joslin.org/info/sexual_dysfunction_and_diabetes.html

Sexual Dysfunction in Men with Type 2 Diabetes, Isidro ML: Postgrad Med J. 2012, 88:152-159.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22282735

Sexual Dysfunction in Women: Epidemiology, Risk Factors, and Evaluation, UpToDate: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/sexual-dysfunction-in-women-epidemiology-risk-factors-and-evaluation?source=machineLearning&search=sexual+dysfunction+in+diabetes&selectedTitle=2%7E150&sectionRank=1&anchor=H7#H7

Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2015, American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care 2015; 38(Suppl 1):S1-S94.  http://professional.diabetes.org/admin/UserFiles/0%20-%20Sean/Documents/January%20Supplement%20Combined_Final.pdf


These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.