Diabetes and Sex: How Diabetes Can Affect Sexual Health

Diabetes can affect sexual function by impairing desire, arousal, and pleasure. Poor glycemic control can cause hormonal imbalances, nerve and blood vessel damage, and inflammation, directly impacting sexual health.

People with diabetes often take certain medications for other conditions that may affect sexual function.

This article details how diabetes may impact your sex life.

couple kissing thinking about having sex

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What Is the Connection Between Diabetes and Sex?

Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and vaginal dryness often coexist with diabetes. Excess blood sugar can cause damage to nerves in sexual organs and disrupt blood flow.

Problems associated with sexual desire and arousal are related to hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone, which is more common in men and women with diabetes.

People with diabetes can have healthy sex lives. However, advanced age, longer duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, coexisting conditions, psychological stressors, lifestyle factors, weight, and medications can all contribute to sexual dysfunction.

Do Drugs Used to Treat Diabetes Cause Sexual Problems?

Very few studies have investigated drugs that target diabetes management, such as insulin and oral medications, and their direct impact on sexual health. Most of the research links sexual dysfunction with medicines used to treat other conditions people with diabetes have. For example, medications used to treat high blood pressure and depression are more likely to cause sexual problems in people with diabetes.

Medications and Sexual Problems

If you are concerned that your medications are disrupting your sexual health, consult with your healthcare provider.

How Are Sexual Problems Due to Diabetes Drugs Treated?

If your blood sugar levels are reasonably under control and you are experiencing sexual problems, your medications can be part of the problem. Your healthcare provider may be able to find an alternative medication to replace the problematic one.

Symptoms and Gender Differences

Sexual dysfunction in men, primarily erectile dysfunction, is well documented, with statistics suggesting that men with diabetes have a threefold increase in erectile dysfunction. Studies in women are less conclusive but still report higher levels of sexual dysfunction in women with diabetes verse those that do not have diabetes.

Men

Decreased sex drive, orgasmic dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction have been linked to older men with type 2 diabetes. Lower testosterone levels, poor glycemic control, older age, excess weight, poor blood flow, and nerve damage can reduce a man's ability to get an erection and keep it.

Sexual arousal can also be lessened if damage to the nerves in the penis or blockage in an artery affects blood flow to the penis.

Men with diabetes are also at increased risk of developing Peyronie's disease, in which scar tissue inside the penis causes a curved and painful erection. If you are experiencing pain during sex, it is important to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Women

Like men, women with diabetes can experience problems that affect sexual desire, arousal, orgasms, and pain during intercourse. It can be harder to determine the cause of lower sex drive in women. Many times, emotional issues, menopause, or something else entirely that is not related to diabetes are to blame.

Problems with arousal can develop as a result of nerve damage (autonomic neuropathy). When nerves are damaged, the sensation can be impaired, affecting the ability to orgasm. Neuropathy can also cause vaginal dryness, a common symptom that develops with age before and after menopause.

Issues with blood flow can also cause vaginal dryness, impairing blood flow to the vagina and clitoris.

How Are Sexual Problems With Diabetes Treated?

If you have diabetes, you might be reluctant to share your sexual issues, but discussing your troubles with your healthcare team is important. Lifestyle changes and achieving good glycemic control have been associated with improved sexual function.

Request to meet with a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist for education, training, and support in reaching your blood sugar goals. They can identify areas of diabetes self-management where you can improve and assist you in meal planning, medication management, stress management, and more.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cessation has been shown to improve sexual function and can help prevent problems from getting worse. Smoking is also linked to poor glycemic control, heart disease, retinopathy, poor blood flow, and peripheral neuropathy.

Get Emotional Support

A healthy sex life is feeling relaxed and comfortable in your body. Body image issues, insecurities about your diabetes, and stress can all impair your sexual desire and arousal.

Adopt Healthy Habits

Eating nutritious foods, moving your body regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing stress can improve your overall health and your diabetes, improving your sex life and vice versa. Start by making small, sustainable changes that fit your lifestyle. For example, aim to eat one extra serving of vegetables daily, walk 15 minutes three times per week, or go to bed 20 minutes earlier.

Other Treatments

There are other treatments available for people with diabetes. Women experiencing vaginal dryness may use a lubricant. Men with erectile dysfunction can be prescribed Viagra (sildenafil) or another medication. Depending on the problem, other options available to men include penis pumps, support sleeves, testosterone injections, and gels.

Summary

People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing sexual dysfunction. Poor glycemic control, medications, and vascular and nerve damage can affect a person's ability to have sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm. It is important to discuss your sexual health with your healthcare provider. Sometimes your medications are to blame, and they may offer alternatives.

A Word From Verywell

Having diabetes does not mean you will be destined to have issues with sex, but it can increase the risk. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising, managing stress, not smoking, and keeping blood sugars in good control can help prevent sexual dysfunction. These types of issues are common and healthcare providers are equipped to investigate the cause and formulate a plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does having diabetes lower your sex drive?

    People with diabetes are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction, including a lower sex drive. Lower sex drive in people with diabetes is associated with poor glycemic control, certain types of medications, neuropathy, age, and more.

  • Does diabetes affect sex drive in men differently then women?

    Men and women can experience lower sex drive if they have diabetes, but they can have different arousal issues. When men experience lower sex drive because of diabetes, they may also experience erectile dysfunction. Women with diabetes can also experience lower sex for the same reasons as men. However, if women have lower testosterone levels, treatment is more complex, and more research is needed.

  • Can you take erectile dysfunction medicine if you have diabetes?

    There are many options to treat erectile dysfunction in men. Viagra, testosterone injections or gels, injectable medications or suppositories, constriction rings, vacuum pumps, and support sleeves are all options for people with diabetes.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Sex and diabetes.

  2. Maiorino MI, Bellastella G, Esposito K. Diabetes and sexual dysfunction: current perspectives. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2014;6(7):95-105. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S36455

  3. Al-Kuraishy HM, Al-Gareeb AI. Erectile dysfunction and low sex drive in men with type 2 DM: The potential role of diabetic pharmacotherapy. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(12):FC21-FC26. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2016/19971.8996

  4. Center for Disease Control. Smoking and diabetes.

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.