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How Diabetes Affects a Woman's Sexual Health

By Camille Peri
WebMD Feature

Sex is good for diabetes. It's good for your heart and blood flow, helps you sleep, and boosts your mood.

If you have diabetes and have had painful sex or trouble getting aroused, though, sex may not seem too sexy. About 35% of women with diabetes seem to have sexual issues. That doesn't mean you have to live with them. There's help to get your sex life going again. 

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It's past midnight. You're out of clean clothes, and you haven't finished that report for work. Though the alarm clock will ring in six hours, you cram in a load of laundry and spend another bleary-eyed hour at the computer. It's the only way to stay on top of a busy life, right? While skimping on sleep may seem like a good idea in the short run, it can have serious long-term consequences. Scientists warn that too little shut-eye may raise type 2 diabetes risks. And if you already have diabetes,...

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"Some women's issues may be more complex to treat than those of men, but most can be treated," says Janis Roszler, a diabetes educator, marriage therapist, and author of Sex and Diabetes: For Him and For Her. "There's no reason for any woman with diabetes to deny herself the opportunity to have a fulfilling and pleasurable sex life."

Sexual Challenges for Women

The causes of sexual issues for women with diabetes are less clear than those in men with diabetes. But nerve damage, slowed blood flow to vaginal and genital tissues, and mood and hormone changes may play a part.

Common sex-stallers include:

  • Vaginal dryness. This is the biggest sexual complaint in women with diabetes. Vaginal dryness is, this ¬†twice as likely if you have diabetes. If you are in menopause or postmenopause, less estrogen may be the cause. If you aren't, damage to the nerves that lubricate your vagina may be. Vaginal dryness can become a painful cycle. If sex hurts because of it, you may tense up during sex, causing more pain, or avoid sex altogether.
  • Vaginal infections. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) may make sex painful. Yeast infections can also cause pain during sex, as well as vaginal dryness. "If you have poorly controlled diabetes, you're more likely to have yeast and other vaginal infections," says David G. Merrero, PhD, president of Health Care and Education at the American Diabetes Association.
  • Sex drive and orgasm issues. Maybe you find it hard to get in the mood. Or you get in the mood but don't climax. Trouble with orgasms is a concern for many women with diabetes. A 2012 study found that women who took insulin for diabetes were 80% more likely to have trouble reaching an orgasm than women who don't have diabetes. The exact reasons for low libido and orgasm troubles are not clear.
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