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Diabetes and Sexual Intimacy
Sexual intimacy is an important part of life. But people with diabetes must watch out for sexual problems. Diabetes can damage the nerves or blood vessels. This can interfere with sexual function. Certain medicines used to treat diabetes-related complications can also affect sexual health. It's helpful to talk about these issues with your healthcare provider. They can work with you to help you have a healthy sex life.
Men's sexual concerns
Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves of the penis. This damage can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). This is when a man can't get or keep an erection. Diabetes also increases the risk for low testosterone and depression. Both of these can help lead to ED. In addition, ED may be a side effect of certain medicines used to treat high blood pressure and heartburn caused by gastroparesis. This is a diabetes-related stomach condition. Men with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have ED. And they often have the problem at a younger age.
When ED is linked to nerve and blood vessel damage caused by diabetes, there are certain treatment choices. These include pills, medicine injected or inserted into the penis, a vacuum tube and pump, or surgery to implant a device inside the penis. Surgery can also be done to fix blood vessels in the area. Have your healthcare provider look at the list of medicines you take. They may decide that you can stop taking certain medicines to improve erectile function.
Women's sexual concerns
Diabetes can cause nerve damage and reduced blood flow in the vagina that can lead to dryness. This can cause mild to severe pain during sex. Depression may also interfere with sexual desire. This may make it hard to talk about sexual concerns with your partner or healthcare provider. Vaginal lubricant creams may help with dryness. Your provider might advise changes in position. Or your provider may suggest Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. This can help with sexual arousal. A new medicine (flibanserin) has been approved by the FDA. It's been shown to increase sexual desire in premenopausal women. Another injectable medicine (bremelanotide) has the same effect.
Talking with your healthcare provider
You may not feel comfortable talking about your sexual health problems. But remember that your healthcare provider has helped many people with diabetes resolve these issues. They can also advise treatment choices for depression and sexual concerns. You may not be sure how to talk about these issues. Try saying that you have a personal question you'd like to ask. Your concerns show you are ready to make important lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, or controlling your blood pressure or blood sugar. You and your provider can work together to find a solution.