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Diabetes Has an Impact on Sex Life

Study Shows Diabetes Is Linked to Loss of Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 27, 2010 -- Middle aged and older adults are interested in sexual activity, but diabetes impairs libido and can result in erectile dysfunction, a new study shows.

Researchers in Chicago say men diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to express a lack of interest in sex, but also to experience erectile dysfunction.

Scientists at the University of Chicago Medical Center conducted a study of nearly 2,000 people between the ages of 57 and 85.

The study found that about 70% of men and 62% of women with diabetes and sexual partners were found to engage in sexual activity two or three times a month -- comparable to people without diabetes.

The study also found that:

  • Men were more likely to express a lack of interest in sex if they had diabetes.
  • Men also were more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction if they had diabetes.
  • Women as well as men with diabetes reported a higher rate of orgasm difficulty, including climaxing too quickly for men, or not at all, which was reported by both men and women.
  • Only 19% of women compared to 47% of men, all with diabetes, had discussed sexual problems with a doctor, and men were more likely to talk about it than women.
  • Men in the study regardless of age or diabetes status were more likely than women to be married or living with a partner, and more men than women said they were sexually active.

The research was done as part of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, which involves in-home interviews, self-administered questionnaires, blood tests to assess diabetes status, and medication audits of 1,993 participants.

Patients and Doctors Should Discuss Sexual Activity

"Patients and doctors need to know that most middle age and older adults with partners are still sexually active despite their diabetes," says study researcher Stacy Lindau, MD, associate professor obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, in a news release. "However, many people with diabetes have sexual problems that are not being addressed."

She says almost half the women in the age group studied do not have sexual partners, and that women with diabetes are much less likely than women without diabetes to have a partner.

"Those who have partners were more likely than men to avoid sex because of a problem and were less far less likely than men to discuss a sexual problem with their doctors."

The study found, based on blood tests, that:

  • 47% of men had diabetes.
  • 22% had the disease but hadn't been previously diagnosed.
  • Almost 40% of the women had diabetes, including 20.5% who had been diagnosed and 19% not previously diagnosed.

Researchers say those findings are comparable to previous studies of people over age 60 and consistent with the estimate of 12 million people with diabetes in the U.S. over the age of 60.

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