Blood Sugar, Sex, and Finding the Magic: Intimacy and Diabetes

November 9, 2015 5:43 pm
Sex Blog Picture

It’s doubtful that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were speaking about diabetes when they wrote their 1991 hit album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but they highlight yet another great reason why it is important to have good management of your blood sugar; Sex! Both men and women with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing sexual dysfunction, but living with diabetes isn’t the end for your love life or libido. Keeping your blood sugars in range, speaking to your healthcare providers, and having honest discussions with your sexual partner are all things you can do to keep the “magic” in the bedroom.

The number of people with diabetes affected by sexual dysfunction varies greatly from study to study, from as much as 25% to 71% of the population with diabetes being affected.[1] For both men and women, the sexual issues that occur are mainly related to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) and associated cardiovascular issues that affect blood flow to all parts of the body, including your sexual organs. Men with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation, a painful condition when semen enters into the bladder instead of exiting through the urethra. For women, common problems are vaginal dryness, painful sexual intercourse, a drop in libido and a decline or lack of sexual response.[2]

Despite the number of people with diabetes experiencing sexual dysfunction, very few people are able to broach the subject with their doctors. And sadly sometimes, even our doctors can be unprepared to have a discussion about their patients’ sexual health. Perhaps because some people are still uncomfortable in this day and age to talk about sex or because some medical professionals view sexual health as secondary to issues like too many hypos or high cholesterol. Sexual health is often put on the back burner. But it shouldn’t be! You have a right to discuss with your doctor all of your options to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life. Evaluate with your doctor all of your medications (some prescriptions, such as heart medications, can impair sexual function), medications and treatments that can help (like Viagra and lubrication), and most-importantly, getting your blood sugars in better range to avoid the sexual complications of diabetes.

Sex isn’t just physical; you also need to take into consideration the psychological components of sex. The mere suggestion or warnings about erectile dysfunction when you are living with diabetes can cause difficulties in arousal.[3] Living with diabetes your body can go through many changes such as weight gain or loss, scarring from insulin injections, and amputations. For insulin pump users, navigating sex with something constantly attached to you can be a challenge at first. The body image issues that can stem from diabetes complications can have a very real impact on your self-perception and confidence during sex and other moments of intimacy. The first step towards regaining your sexual confidence if you are feeling it lacking is to accept and love yourself for the way you are. Sounds a bit corny, but it’s true. Speaking with your partner about how you are feeling about sexual complications and body image issues is the next step; secrecy and shame about your sex life or your body will only create more diversions in bed. Remember that intimacy with your partner does not just mean sex; foster the emotional aspects of your relationship as well.[4]

Keeping track of your blood sugars and communicating are key to improving sexual health and intimacy. And yes, that is your Dario in your pocket! Monitoring your blood sugars with Dario and keeping track of their changes can help you stay healthy and feel sexy. If you are experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction, speak with your doctor to discuss your options. Start an open dialogue with your partner about how you can increase the intimacy in your relationship. And since we started off on a musical note, to quote Justin Timberlake, you can “bring your sexy back!”

[1] Mazzilli R., Imbrogno N., Elia J., et al (2015). Sexual dysfunction in Diabetic  women: prevalence and difference in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. Vol 8; p 97-101.

[2] NIH Publication (2008). Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes. NIH Publication No. 09-5135

[3] Castleman, M. (2013) The Real Truth About Sex and Diabetes. Psychology Today (Online).

[4] Spero, David. (2008) Partners speak out about sex. Blog Diabetes Self-Management. (Online)