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Women, Sex, and Diabetes

Men aren't the only ones who have sexual problems as a result of diabetes.

Women, Sex, and Diabetes: The Role of Infections continued...

“The vagina is a moist, warm place that favors the overgrowth of yeast anyway -- add excess sugar into the mix and you have the ideal breeding ground for yeast, one reason women with uncontrolled blood sugars frequently develop chronic yeast infections,” Mezitis says.

What many may not recognize is the impact these infections have on delicate vaginal tissue, and the role they can play in making sex very uncomfortable, even after the infection has cleared.

“It can leave the vaginal tissue raw and irritated, particularly if the infections are chronic and keep coming back -- the irritation continues, and combined with a lack of lubrication, this can make sex extremely uncomfortable, even painful,” Greene says.

Urinary tract infections can have the same effect, Mezitis says. “The burning and pain can make sex very uncomfortable -- and when there is chronic infection, there is chronic discomfort that can cause a woman to avoid sex for long periods of time."

Avoiding sex may only make the problem worse.

“The longer a woman goes without having sex, the more difficult and sometimes painful it can be for her to begin again," Greene says.

Women, Sex, and Diabetes: A Complex Issue

Experts have suggested that one reason there is so little research on women, sex, and diabetes is that for women, achieving sexual satisfaction is a complex issue. That means finding a single “smoking gun” becomes a daunting, and some say, impossible, task.

Albright believes the complexity of a woman’s sexuality is one of the main reasons the impact of diabetes can be so devastating.

“Sometimes sexual problems can be clearly glucose related, but sometimes it’s also the demand that diabetes itself takes on a woman’s life and how coping with the disease can ultimately impact sexual functioning,” she says.

“The demands of the diabetes itself can affect you emotionally and if you’re a woman the stress of those demands is simply more likely to play out in the bedroom."

Greene adds that for many women with diabetes, depression is also a factor. “In and of itself," she says, "depression can impact your intimate life, but so can many of the medications prescribed to women who do develop depression as a result of their diabetes."

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