How may diabetes affect a woman's sex life?

Many women with diabetes at one time or another experience some sexual difficulties. In fact, one study showed that 30–40% of women with diabetes reported that they have problems with sexual function, refrain from sexual relations, and are generally not satisfied with sex. But for women, long-term blood glucose levels and diabetes complications don’t appear to have a direct effect on sexual functioning. For most women with diabetes, the problem is caused by lack of arousal.
There is a very strong link between mind and body. If a woman does not feel in the mood for sex, then her body does not respond the way it needs to in order for her to enjoy it. If she is not emotionally ready or interested in sex, then she will be less likely to enjoy it physically.
Common Causes of Lack of Arousal
  • Vaginal infections that affect how you feel physically and how sexy you feel
  • Bladder infections that can cause painful intercourse
  • Hormonal changes due to your menstrual cycle or menopause
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Fear of pregnancy
  • Depression and medications used to treat depression
Diabetes can create sexual problems for some women. There are many possible causes. Diabetes can cause fatigue and reduce your libido, which is your desire to have sex. You may have physical effects such as vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. Depression is more common in people with diabetes than in people without diabetes, and depression can take away your desire for sex.

If you have diabetes and are having sexual problems, try to talk openly with your partner about it, and find a healthcare professional you can discuss these issues with. There are solutions that can help you regain a satisfying sex life.
Diabetes may affect a woman's sex life due to uncontrolled blood glucose levels and diabetes-related complications. Both can play havoc with a woman's sexual desire and performance. Here are some common ways diabetes can affect sexual health:
  • Infections and irritation. Chronic high blood sugars promote yeast infections and vaginal irritation.
  • Low blood flow. Vascular damage caused by poorly-controlled diabetes restricts the blood flow to the vagina, which causes vaginal dryness and interferes with arousal.
  • Medication. Certain drugs, such as antidepressants, birth control pills, tranquilizers and high blood pressure medications can cause decreased libido as a side-effect.
  • Menopause. "The change" and its effects on the body may cause a serious change in your sex life.
  • Nerve damage. Women who have neuropathy to the genital area, the reproductive organs or the vagina may have difficulty achieving orgasm.
  • Neurogenic bladder. Women with nerve damage to the bladder may have incontinence problems that make sex difficult and/or embarrassing. It can also make urinary tract infections (UTIs) more common, which may make sex uncomfortable.
Several studies that used questionnaires to evaluate sexual function found that women with diabetes are more likely to report sexual problems, including lower desire, than women without.

One study found that nearly 78% of women with type 2 diabetes had low libido compared to just 20% of women without type 2 diabetes. Another found that only about a third of women with type 2 diabetes reported they had a "strong" sex drive, while 70% said their sex drive was weak. The figures were nearly exactly the opposite in women without diabetes. Women with diabetes also had more difficulty reaching orgasm and were much less likely than women without diabetes to describe sex as satisfying.

Numerous reasons could be behind the differences, including lack of lubrication, possibly from insufficient blood flow to the vaginal area.

In one study, only a third of women with diabetes said they achieved vaginal lubrication "easily," compared to 78% of a control group. In addition, one study comparing genital arousal in women with diabetes and those without showed that women with diabetes reported fewer sensations in their clitoris.
Diabetes can interfere with a woman's ability to have an orgasm. Just as diabetes can cause decreased sensation in your feet, it can have the same mildly numbing effect on the clitoris, as part of vascular and neurologic changes that often occur with the disease.

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Ronald Tamler, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

There’s actually a fancy term for this: Female sexual dysfunction, or FSD. About a third to half of all women with diabetes experience some degree of FSD. It can express itself in several varieties: Decreased or total lack of interest in sexual relations, decreased or no sensation in the genital area, constant or occasional inability to reach orgasm, or dryness in the vaginal area which can lead to pain or discomfort during sexual relations.

Jan L. Shifren, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology
For women, the sexual effects of diabetes are subtle, but they can be distressing. Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves, interfering with clitoral sensation and vaginal lubrication and causing difficulties with arousal and orgasm. The disease may also be associated low libido. In addition, high blood sugar contributes to frequent yeast and bladder infections, which can make sex uncomfortable.
Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
In addition to a lower libido in response to certain medicines, women have their own issues with sexual function and diabetes. Diabetes increases the likelihood of vaginal yeast infections, especially if the blood sugar levels are not well controlled. This can cause itching, burning, and pain.

Although we don't think of "erectile dysfunction" as a female issue, poor blood flow to the clitoris and the vagina can contribute to lessened sexual responsiveness.

Women with diabetes are at increased risk of urinary tract infections, both because high blood sugar levels predispose them to infection and because neuropathy may cause problems with urine incontinence and bladder emptying. A woman may be hesitant about engaging in sexual activity because of this risk.
The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

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The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.