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6 Ways to Support a Spouse With Diabetes

Experts and people who've been there offer tips on how to support a partner with diabetes -- without nagging.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 5: Be Prepared for Mood Swings

Low blood sugar can cause those with diabetes, especially if they're on insulin, to feel nervous, weak, confused, and irritable. Mood swings are common.

''Know that as the spouse, you will probably become the target of those swings. But understand that it's not personal,'' Weiss says.

But if mood swings become more frequent or intense, talk to your spouse about seeking counseling to look for underlying psychological distress, she adds.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 6. If Sexual Problems Arise, Talk About It

Don't ignore the damage diabetes can do to sexual relationships, Funnell says. Between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes struggle with erectile dysfunction, according to the National Institutes of Health. Wives have told Funnell, '''All of a sudden, he doesn't kiss me anymore, he doesn't hold my hand,' and they miss that. A lot of them say they miss that more than the actual sexual activity.''

She cautions women: ''It's not personal. It doesn't happen because you're no longer attractive. It's not a rejection of you. At the same time, it's one of the most devastating things in diabetes that can happen for men.''

For women with diabetes, increased vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse, and vaginal infections can put a damper on sex, Funnell says. So can fatigue. ''They're just worn out,'' she says. ''They don't feel very sexy. They're managing diabetes. And if their blood sugar is high, they don't have the energy.''

Also, research shows that women with diabetes believe they receive less spousal support than men with diabetes, Funnell says. That can breed resentment. ''For women, a lot of desire and satisfaction come from the mental romance of it all.''

When diabetes interferes with physical closeness, couples need to discuss it, Funnell says. Counseling may help. They should also consult a doctor about treatments for erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, low libido, and other medical problems.

Reviewed on January 01, 2007

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