Sex plays an important role in relationships for men and women, but we don’t often talk about the fact that sexual problems are also common for many. This is particularly true for men and women with diabetes. Diabetes and sexual health should be a discussion that you can easily have with your diabetes health care professional since they will be able to advise you on the various treatment options.
Men's sexual health
Almost all men will experience a problem with erections at some point in their lives. There can be many causes, and in most cases the problem will sort itself out without intervention.
In diabetes, however, the walls of the body’s blood vessels can become damaged, affecting circulation and reducing blood flow to the penis. This can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). Similarly, nerve damage can affect the quality of erections.
It is important for both you and your loved one to talk about this with a member of your healthcare team. Erectile dysfunction is common in men with diabetes, and the diabetes healthcare team will discuss a variety of treatment options. It is recommended that both partners be involved in the discussions.
Options may include medications called PDE5 inhibitors. You may know these by their brand names, such as Viagra®, Cialis®, and Levitra®. By increasing blood flow to the penis, these medications facilitate erections.
Other options can include hormone replacements, implants, injections or mechanical devices. Together, talk to your healthcare team about the best solutions.
Women's sexual health
Most women will experience an occasional problem with arousal or vaginal lubrication at some point in their lives. There can be many causes, and most instances are temporary and resolve without intervention.
In diabetes, however, continued sexual dysfunction is common for women. This is because poorly managed diabetes can damage the blood vessels and the nervous system. In women, reduced blood flow to the vagina can lead to dryness and problems with arousal. Nerve damage can also lead to loss of sensation.
It is important to talk about this with a member of the diabetes healthcare team. Sexual dysfunction is common among women with diabetes, and the healthcare team member will be able to discuss options to overcome the problem.
Options may include prescription or over-the-counter vaginal lubricants. Changes in position during sexual relations may be recommended. Kegel exercises may also be suggested to improve sexual response by strengthening the pelvic muscles.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Your healthcare team is used to treating sexual problems related to diabetes, and will be able to help.