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Diabetes and Sexual Health

09/11/2011

  • Mitchell S. Tepper, PhD, MPH:

    Whether your diabetes is caused by type 1 or type 2, when we look across the whole spectrum and people with diabetes -- I’m going to give you a really rough figure -- but about half of people are going to experience some kind of sexual problem. Sometimes there’s a change in sensation in the genitals, and that can be tingling, it can be less sensation, and that can create difficulties in, say, experiencing orgasm. Women with diabetes who have less lubrication and more dryness, they’re prone to more vaginal infections. Vaginal infections can then lead to problems around the entrance to the vagina, in the vagina itself, and can lead to different type of pain syndromes. Whether it be diabetes or other chronic conditions, people often have depression and are treated with drugs for depression, or they have hypertension, high blood pressure, and they’re treated for their high blood pressure. These types of medications can also affect your sexual function in both men and women.   So they affect your blood flow, and they’re going to affect your ability to respond sexually.  And so it’s often very important to pay attention when you’re on medications to any changes and have those discussions with whoever prescribed that medication. Be brave when you’re at your physician and say, "This is an important part of my health and I’ve noticed changes in my lubrication since my last visit," or "I’ve noticed changes in my ability to reach orgasm and can this be related to my condition?"  So people have to be empowered to ask these sometimes embarrassing questions and difficult questions  to their physician because unfortunately there’s a communication gap and physicians sometimes don’t feel like they have permission to delve into your sexual life because that’s not why you’re there, unless you bring it up.