Diabetes and Sexual Health

Diabetes can affect the mind as well as the body
Diabetes can affect your sexual health

Sexual health and diabetes are undoubtedly linked, and better diabetes control is also linked with better sexual performance in many cases.

However, sexual health is an extremely personal and private issue. Being able to use an anonymous forum allows people to address these kind of issues and receive the advice and support of their peers - many of whom have encountered the same problems.

How diabetes affects men

There are a variety of ways that diabetes influences sexual health and virility, many of which are also associated with the effects of aging. For men, the most common are erectile or ejaculation problems.

How diabetes affects women's sexual health

Meanwhile, women may have sexual response problems or lubrication issues. Furthermore, bladder problems and infections in the urinary tract are more common amongst people with diabetes. Keeping good diabetes control can make all the difference in lowering sexual and urologic risks.

Diabetes and sexual health is a complex issue, and isn’t always physical. There is no question that the mind has an enormous influence on libido and sexual response.

However, on a physical basis the damage to autonomic nerves interferes with blood flow, and this is what can hinder normal sexual function. Male sexual problems linked with diabetes include erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation.

Female sexual problems linked with diabetes include decreased vaginal lubrication and decreased sexual response. Urologic problems linked with diabetes may affect both men and women.  These include neurogenic bladder and urinary tract infections.

Sexual health risk factors

The risk of sexual health problems for people with diabetes increase if the patient has poor blood glucose control, high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure, is overweight, is over the age of 40, and is a smoker.

Closely managing blood glucose and cholesterol, being physically active and not overweight, and stopping smoking all help to reduce risks to sexual health.

What the community is saying about sexual health

  • Hanadr: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and make erection impossible. Very often, it improves if control is really good. However, it's a common problem in diabetic men. I'm horrified to find that most diabetic healthcare teams don't ask about this routinely. It's so common. However, if the problem persists, the patient has the right to treatment. He needs to go to his care team, tell them and ask for help.
  • Makram1: With age a man does lose some power and ED affects some with type 1 or 2. That is not the end of the road. There are many solutions and certainly an expert, i.e. Urologist can treat or diagnose. Buying anything on the internet or by some other means is a great risk. Those who are on mono nitrate would be risking if they take any drug like Viagra. Best person is your GP who can refer you to the Hospital specialist for this particular treatment. Get it and enjoy the life in this advanced era of medicine.
  • Goji: After the discussion we had on this thread, I wrote to NHS Choices about not listing female sexual dysfunction as a complication of diabetes and they have agreed to change the page and have updated the complications page to include under sexual dysfunction...
  • Buachaille: In our house everything returned to normal when blood glucose levels returned to near non-diabetic levels.
  • Fujifilm: I have tried the more sex makes my diabetes better balanced argument, but she's not buying it. And if thinking about it lowers BG I should be in a coma.
Your Comments
My mother has diabetes. She has severe pricking pain in her heel what the solution for that.
Posted by helen, Singapore on Saturday, June 09, 2012
So glad to be able to get the views of other people who have diabetes. Also to check up on the different types of drugs available and see if my side effects are similar to others.
Posted by Christina, Dublin Ireland on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
I have type 2 diabetes and I am scared of taking tablets as I heard that the diabetes tablets have a side effect which in future damages the kidney. Please can you advise me which tablet is the best for me as I am looking at my sugar levels and the foods that I am eating, I came to know that my sugar level goes high mostly when I am stressed, but my blood pressure is always a bit low then normal blood pressure. I hope there is a solution for my problem.
Posted by naziban, Fiji on Thursday, May 10, 2012
I was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 four years ago, and any medication that my doctor put me on just upset my tum, made me feel very sick, and had a detrimental effect on my depression as I was afraid of going out due to needing the loo. I had actually gone to the doctors with other symptoms of illness unrelated to Diabetes when I was diagnosed. After a couple of years of continually feeling ill from the medication, I stopped taking it, and started to feel much better. My original symptoms have come back though, but I find them more manageable than the side effects of the Diabetic medication. In fact, my new doctor has put me back onto the medication stressing to me that I need to take it so as I live a longer and healthy life, and again, I am feeling the negative side effects from before. How can doctors expect people diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 to live with these side effects when they impede on our lives so much?
Posted by Chris, Barnsley on Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in September 2009. I was on a diet only at first but then prescribed Metformin. I was constantly sick on this tablet so my gp stopped it in June and tried me on a diet again. I recently won a blood glucose monitor and have been testing my blood. The lowest it has been is 8.8 and the highest 15.3. I think this is too high but I think my next appointment is in October. I dare not go back sooner because my GP told me not to use a blood monitor. Do you think I need to be worried?
Posted by carol1221, sunderland on Thursday, August 26, 2010
I have had diabetes type 2 for around 20 years. I have tried to keep my sugar levels as low as I can, but I now suffer with erectile dysfunction and there doesn't seem to be a way out of it. I also have angina and take monitrate, so where I am its a vicious circle! Any suggestions?
Posted by Driverdaw, East Sussex on Thursday, August 26, 2010
Even the slow release metformin can bring permanant misery. I was on it for more than a month and my quality of life was so bad every day and all day that glipizide was the only alternative and that was much better. Since then treatment has changed to insulin and now Byetta which does bring indegestion and severe bloating every few days, but I'm assured that will fade. I live in hope. I've needed a lot of that during the 11 years I've had this disease.
Posted by David, Sudbury UK on Thursday, August 19, 2010
Yes like so many others I suffer from side effects from the drugs I take. BUT those same drugs are helping to keep me alive! And this is not a flippant thing! I take several drugs for Diabetes and also more to overcome quite severe Arthritis. I think I have more reason than some to speak about after effects therefore. And have to say that I'm sorry but a lot of people are simply wimpish when it comes to problems! OK we ALL have our threshold, but come on eh? What would you rather? feeling like something the cat dragged in ALL of the time? OR just some of the time? Lighten up people! This is a part of life! You could have lost several limbs like some of the lads coming back from Afghanistan! How do you think they would feel about a bit of nausea and an upset stomach? Would you swap with them?? Regards Chris
Posted by Chris Goddard, France on Thursday, August 19, 2010
I have had considerable ED which has progressively worsened over the last 6 years which surprises me as my BG control has improved considerably (although there may be underlying factors as the NHS admitted at my last diabetic care team\meeting that I wasn't diagnosed until up to 10 years after I probably developed type 1). I have been prescribed Viagra and now for the last 2 months Cialis... both improve blood flow but neither give me a "proper" erection and as such intercourse is near on impossible for me now. I can still reach orgasm through masturbation after considerable time and effort but I long to be able to have just the odd session of "Ladies and Gentlemen" just once in a while!!! Although many "reasoned minds" will tell you someone out there will understand your situation and "you'll get by/be ok/find someone" it's not the most caring attitude to someone in my condition.
Posted by Rob, Brighton. England, UK on Monday, July 12, 2010
My husband is type 1 diabetic and has pretty good control of his sugars, regularly exercises, eats healthily and looks 10 years younger than his 61 years. Otherwise he is never sick for any other illnesses. But for the last 5 years the impotence problems have caused us both a lot of distress and just made us miserable really. We had a great sex life!! I have read just about everything I can on this subject but it doesn't help much. The doctors keep prescribing Viagra and Cialis but they don't always work as some of the nerves may have been affected in this region. Cialis is better as I can be more spontaneous. But I guess at the end of the day sometimes, medicine can't fix everything and somehow we just have to deal with it. Unfortunately, no-one has invented the magic wand yet! I wish doctors would be a little better informed about this though and not just treat the male patient but see this as a problem which affects the partner as well.
Posted by Kazza, Austria on Thursday, July 08, 2010
Have Your Say
This is my Diabetes Forum username
Your Comment* (1000 characters max)
Your email address will not be published. Your comments may be moderated. By submitting your comments, you agree to the Diabetes Community Rules.