Can Women With Diabetes Experience Sexual Dysfunction?

What Are the Causes and How Can You Get Help?

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Diabetes is a progressive and chronic condition that can result in different complications, including sexual dysfunction. The good news is that, with advanced technology, diabetes awareness, and an abundance of support and education, people with diabetes can live long and full lives.

One of the complications that many people are aware of is sexual dysfunction in males. Chronically elevated blood sugars can cause nerve damage to the male reproductive organs, resulting in impotence. This is typically more common in older men who have had diabetes for a long time. Less commonly spoken about is how diabetes can affect a woman's sex life. Because sex is an important part of life and relationships, it's important to understand that diabetes can affect women, too.

What Causes Sexual Issues?

While not all women with diabetes experience issues having sex, some do. The culprit may be disinterest in the act of sex or perhaps lack of enjoyment due to physical discomfort. This can result in problems with arousal, an inability to orgasm, and a decrease in sexual desire and sexual satisfaction.

Research suggests that most of the time, women who experience sexual complications are also suffering from some sort of anxiety or depression. These women may have less interest in having intercourse. Coupled with variable blood sugars, depressive feelings can make you feel more tired and more irritable, hence decreasing your desire to be intimate even more.

In addition, physiological issues, such as vaginal dryness, caused by diabetes-related nerve damage, can make having intercourse painful or uncomfortable. Nerve damage can also cause a loss of sensation in the vagina, making organisms difficult or impossible to achieve. If you are in pain or experiencing discomfort, you are less likely to want to engage in sexual activity.

Lastly, women with diabetes are at increased risk of urinary tract infections which can cause discomfort during intercourse. Sexual activity should be avoided during time of treatment. If you are experiencing urinary tract infections often, you should contact your health care provider. 

If I Am Not Enjoying Sex Anymore, What Can I Do About it?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have diabetes, take action.

First off, it's important for you to know that you are not alone. Many other women may be experiencing this but choose not to do anything about it because they are embarrassed, angry, or ashamed. While it's normal to be upset, you shouldn't be ashamed. It's important to be vocal. Don't dismiss your feelings.

If you are feeling angry or down about your sexual dissatisfaction, it's okay. Find support so you can find a solution. A member of your health care team, such as your doctor, nurse, certified diabetes educator, or social worker can help you to get the counseling or medication you need to either uplift your spirits or treat your physiological issue.

In the meantime, it is also a good idea to make sure your blood sugars are not erratic. If you are experiencing extreme ups and downs (hyper and hypoglycemia) or chronically high blood sugars (blood sugars that are elevated for an extended period of time), you may feel tired or down, which can affect your desire to have intercourse.

Getting your blood sugars in better control can help give you more energy and increase your spirits. Sometimes simply changing your medicines or making tweaks to your meal plan or exercise regimen can really help get your blood sugars in target range. If you haven't been seen by your health care provider in a while, schedule an appointment to get back on track. Bring a blood sugar log with you so that your health care team can evaluate your blood sugar patterns. Together you can come up with a solution. 

If You'd Like to Read More on the Subject

For more information on this topic, the American Diabetes Association recommends Sex and Diabetes: For Him and HerIn this book you'll learn about how diabetes can affect your feelings and your body. You'll also learn more about what fuels male and female sex drive and how to seek help if you are having issues.

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Article Sources

  • American Diabetes Association. Sexual Health.
  • Elyasi, F, et. al. Sexual dysfunction in women with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Iran J Med Sci. 2015 May;40(3):206-13.
  • Joslin Diabetes Center. Sexual Dysfunction - Causes and Symptoms.