How Can Diabetes Affect the Sex Life of Women?
Living with diabetes can impact the sex lives of both women and men. In this post, we’ll examine the ways the disease affects women.
While most of the sexual issues we seem to focus on as a society are those faced by men, erectile dysfunction being the big one, many women also have concerns about their sex lives, including problems with arousal, a diminished libido and painful intercourse.
While these problems are not limited to women with diabetes, living with the disease does present some increased risk factors. Yet, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) found that only about 19% of women with diabetes have broached the subject of sexual health with their doctors. Granted, this can be a slightly uncomfortable conversation to begin, however, if you are experiencing problems and do not address them, chances are they will not go away.
Before going further, it’s important to note that just because you are a woman living with diabetes does not automatically mean you will experience sexual difficulties. But you are prone to a higher risk. So, what are the problems women with diabetes can experience related to sexual health? What follows are a few of the most common concerns.
Blood Sugar and A Woman’s Libido
Having frequent spikes or prolonged periods of high blood sugar isn’t just bad for your health, it can have a negative impact on a woman’s sex life.
Diminished Sexual Desire
A woman’s brain plays a big role in her libido. When a woman is stimulated her brain sends signals to her sexual organs to start preparing for sex. Sometimes, when diabetes-related nerve damage occurs, it can impact the way these signals are transmitted, which might cause a woman to lose the desire for sex.
Physical Sensation Can Make It Hard to Orgasm
Diabetes-related nerve damage or neuropathy can also impede blood flow to the vagina and clitoris, which can result in a loss of sensation. Suddenly, touch may not elicit the response it once did. Neuropathy can make it far more difficult for a woman to reach orgasm, which in turn can result in a loss of sexual desire. In fact, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, middle-aged women living with diabetes that require insulin to properly manage it are about 80% more likely to report trouble achieving an orgasm than women without diabetes.
Blood Sugar and Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is a common syndrome for women as they age. Menopausal or postmenopausal women often experience an inability to lubricate naturally due to a lower amount of estrogen in the body. This is part of the normal aging process for most women. The American Diabetes Association, however, points out that vaginal dryness is twice as common in women with diabetes as it is in women without diabetes.
This is again likely due to the nerve damage and circulation issues brought on by high blood sugar. When blood vessels in the vagina are damaged or when sensation is lost, it can result in a lack of lubrication because the sensation needed to trigger the body’s response just isn’t there. As a result, sex can become more than just not as enjoyable as it once was, it can become quite painful.
For menopausal women, estrogen treatment can often help with vaginal dryness. However, in the case of those with diabetes, a lack of estrogen is not the problem and treatment options are few. The most common and effective solution is often an over-the-counter lubricant.
Urinary Tract Infections and Blood Sugar
Sex is certainly not the most common way to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI). In fact, UTIs are not sexually transmitted diseases at all. They’re not contagious.
Where does diabetes figure into the equation? Having sex can sometimes allow bacteria to enter a woman’s urinary tract. Bacteria feed on sugar, so when a woman with diabetes experiences a blood sugar spike, it quickly increases her risk of developing a UTI.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections include:
– Pain when urinating
– Feeling the need to urinate more frequently
– Pain in the lower stomach area
UTIs are not transmittable, but they often make having sex very painful for women because UTIs can put excess pressure on the bladder. On the positive side, UTIs are usually very easy to treat and in many cases can be cured with simple medications and drinking plenty of water. It’s important that you head to your doctor at the first symptoms of a yeast infection or the moment you start experiencing any discomfort.
What Can You Do to Promote Good Sexual Health?
You’ve probably already guessed the first thing we’re going to recommend for women living with diabetes. It’s the big rule! Keep your blood sugar well under control!
Many of the sexual concerns problems women with diabetes face are directly related to high blood sugar. Sometimes, the best way to fix a problem is to prevent it in the first place. Keep your blood sugar in your target range.
– Monitor your blood sugar regularly, whether with a glucose meter and test strips or a doctor-prescribed continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.
– Eat a diabetes-healthy diet and exercise regularly
– Follow your doctor’s prescribed medication plan, including insulin treatments and oral medications.
If you are experiencing frequent blood sugar spikes (lows too!) make plans to see your doctor right away to formulate a plan to get things back under control. It’s not just good for your sex life, it’s crucial for your overall health.
Diabetes Can Be Stressful
Here’s another quick reminder. Sex isn’t just physical, it’s emotional. Everyone who is living with diabetes faces added challenges, responsibilities, and stress inducers each day that those without the disease can’t possibly understand. Sometimes, managing diabetes can feel overwhelming and it can lead to anxiety and depression, both of which can certainly impact a person’s sex life.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and think it might be affecting your sex life, you might consider seeing a therapist, a sex counselor, or a doctor that specializes in sexual medicine. Or maybe you just need to talk it out with your partner. But the one thing you don’t want to do is ignore the problem.
The ADA puts it very well. A good sex life leads to better health – and better health leads to good sex. It’s difficult to have one without the other, so take the right steps to make sure you’re physically and emotionally in a good place, and the sex should follow.
We hope you found this post informative and helpful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to keeping the diabetes community informed with the latest news, tips, and updates impacting our community. We’re also proud to help you control your blood sugar and manage your diabetes with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.