Having diabetes affects much more than a person’s diet. It can impact every aspect of their life, including their sexual health.
When a person has diabetes, their body cannot use insulin properly, and this can lead to high blood sugar levels. Over time, these can lead to complications such as nerve damage and cardiovascular problems. Both have implications for sexual health.
Diabetes can also have an impact on a person’s mental health and self-esteem, and this, too, can affect sexual health.
Impact on women
Diabetes may impact a woman’s sexual health by damaging the nerves that can sense sexual stimulation.
High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage throughout the body.
In women, this can affect:
the ability to experience sexual stimulation and arousal
the release of vaginal lubricant
These changes may result in painful sex and a reduced ability to experience an orgasm.
During menopause, a woman with diabetes may experience sudden drops in her blood sugar levels.
This may affect her sexual health because she might experience symptoms of low blood sugar during sex. This may make sex seem more of an inconvenience than a pleasure.
She may also have to check her blood sugar before having sex.
In addition, women with diabetes are more likely to experience infections, such as thrush, cystitis, and urinary tract infections. These can all impact the ability to have or enjoy sexual intercourse.
Click here to learn more about the impact of diabetes on women.
Impact on men
Studies show that men with diabetes often have reduced testosterone levels, which can affect their sex drive.
However, the main sexual health problem affecting men with diabetes is an inability to achieve or maintain an erection, known as erectile dysfunction (ED).
For a man to achieve an erection, there must be significant blood flow to the penis. However, diabetes damages the blood vessels, which can affect blood flow to the penis.
Diabetes can also lead to nerve damage and make it more difficult for him to maintain an erection.
Type 2 diabetes often occurs alongside obesity or excess weight. This, too, can increase the risk of ED, as can previous prostate or bladder surgery.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 10–20 percent of cases of ED are due to stress, depression, low self-esteem, fear of sexual failure, and other mental health concerns. These can all affect a person with a long-term condition, such as diabetes.
Click here to learn more about the specific ways in which diabetes affects men.
Impact on both sexes