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Diabetes and Sex: What’s the 411?

Good, juicy question!

First, the good news: many, many people with diabetes enjoy a healthy sex life with their partners, despite the challenges caused by the disease. Like any other complication, sexual issues require awareness, communication with your doctor, and a good plan to lower their incidence. Sex is an important part of life and relationships, and diabetes and/or growing older does not mean that you just have to resign yourself to problems having sex.

One of the main sexual problems caused by diabetes is erectile dysfunction, also called impotence. High blood sugar damages the nerves and blood vessels necessary for men to get and maintain an erection. High blood pressure associated with poorly controlled diabetes can also contribute to this problem. This complication can be one of the most emotionally difficult aspects of living with diabetes, but it can be prevented and managed, if blood sugar is kept under control, and by working with health care providers to find the best choices of medications to manage symptoms.

While erectile dysfunction is the most frequently discussed potential side effect of diabetes or diabetes medication, women can be affected, too – women with diabetes report a higher prevalence of difficulties with having orgasms and face the possible loss of orgasm ability. Vaginal dryness and discomfort can also interfere with sexual desire.

Not only can these sexual issues have physical causes in men and women, but they can also stem from psychological factors that can accompany diabetes, like depression, anxiety, stress, guilt, and low self-esteem. Side effects of medication can sometimes include ED or lowered libido.

It might be difficult enough to even admit that your libido has taken a hit, much less say it out loud to someone else. Even though these effects can feel embarrassing to bring up, your sexuality is an important part of your overall quality of life and health, so take the plunge and talk to your doctor.

In many cases, there are alternatives to the prescribed medications that may mitigate or in fact eliminate these side effects. You’ll never have the opportunity to use them if you don’t talk to your doctor.

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