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Sexuality and Diabetes

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Updated October 08, 2011

Just as you’ve found a way to live with the changes in your life that come with living with Diabetes, you may want to think about the ways your sexuality may be affected by living with Diabetes (or being in a sexual relationship with someone who lives with Diabetes).

The traditional medical approach to sexuality and disability or chronic illness can be very gloomy when it comes to sexuality. Often the focus is on what won’t work (and what will hurt). Well meaning health care professionals will sometimes discourage people living with Diabetes from thinking about the sexual parts of their lives. This is wrong.

Sexuality isn’t a simple matter of mechanics and bodies, it’s a combination of the way our bodies work and the way we feel, the changes you experience are unique to you, and professionals shouldn’t be telling you how to feel or what your sexuality is going to be like post-diagnosis.

When you begin any sexual exploration you never know where it’s going to take you. What starts off as a real problem can end up with surprisingly pleasant results.

For example, some people living with Diabetes find they have to start talking about sex with partners more, and the result is better sex, and more of the kinds of sex they’ve always wanted.

You may find that there are a variety of impacts on your sexual life as a result of living with Diabetes. Changes can occur in

  • your desire to have sex
  • how the sex you have feels
  • what kinds of sex you want to have
  • feelings of being attractive and desirable

These changes may be a result of Diabetes itself, medications you may be taking, or the often intense and unacknowledged social pressures and anxieties that come with acquiring and living with a disability.

Here are some common ways that sexuality and sexual functioning can be impacted by Diabetes, along with suggestions for dealing with these obstacles. Remember that these are only general comments, and your experience may be wildly different.

  1. Increased Likelihood of Urinary Tract and Yeast Infections

    Particularly when blood glucose is consistently high, these infections can cause discomfort for women during intercourse and for men during urination and ejaculation. An important preventative measure is to maintain your blood glucose as best as possible.
    More information on urinary tract infections for women
    More information on urinary tract infections for men
    More information on yeast infections
  2. Erectile Dysfunction & Prostate Problems

    Some studies suggest that at least 50% of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction also occurs at a younger age for men with Diabetes. Prostate problems related to Diabetes can also impact erections, as well as have an impact on pain experienced during sexual arousal and orgasm for men. At the same time, not all men living with Diabetes will experience erectile dysfunction.

    While erectile dysfunction problems can often be resolved, when they do occur (as they naturally do for all men, regardless of disability) it can also be an opportunity to reconsider the absolute focus on penile-vaginal intercourse as the “ultimate” form of sex. There are many other ways of being sexual, and getting complete sexual satisfaction, without an erection. And having a body that is changing, and not always working the way it did in the past, can be an opportunity to explore this.
    More on erectile dysfunction and Diabetes

  3. Vaginal Lubrication

    Nerve damage as a result of diabetes can cause reduced vaginal lubrication. This is a situation that is easy to fix with good quality water based or silicone based lubricant.
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