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.
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.
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:
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.
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Sexual Dysfunction in Men with Type 2 Diabetes, Isidro ML: Postgrad Med J. 2012, 88:152-159.
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Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2015, American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care 2015; 38(Suppl 1):S1-S94.
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.