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Diabetes Has an Impact on Sex Life

Study Shows Diabetes Is Linked to Loss of Libido and Erectile Dysfunction

Patients and Doctors Should Discuss Sexual Activity continued...

The researchers report that very little has been known up until now about sexuality among people with undiagnosed diabetes, who typically are earlier in their stage of the disease and who don't know that they have the condition.

"Ignorance of the diagnosis protects individuals from the psychological burden and stigma associated with having diabetes," Lindau says. "The elevated prevalence of orgasm difficulties in people unaware of their diabetes suggests that these are predominantly physical."

She says erectile dysfunction, as well as loss of interest in sex among men with a diagnosis, may in part be due to the "psychological burden" associated with the disease.

The study found that 60% of men without diabetes had masturbated in the past 12 months, but the rate was only 47% for men who had been diagnosed, or had diabetes and didn't know it.

The researchers say only 22.5% of women reported masturbating in the past year. About 29% of women without diabetes did so, compared to only 15% who had the disease whether it had been diagnosed or not.

Women, like men with diabetes -- diagnosed or not diagnosed -- had a higher prevalence of difficulties with having orgasms.

Importance of Addressing Sexual Problems

"Failure to recognize and address sexual issues among middle age and older adults with diabetes may impair quality of life and adaptation to the disease," says Marshall Chin, MD, one of the researchers and a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "Sexual problems are common in patients with diabetes and many patients are not discussing these issues with their physicians."

The researchers write that the rate of erectile dysfunction was not "markedly elevated" in men with undiagnosed diabetes (36%), compared to men without diabetes (32%). However, the inability to experience orgasm was high in men without diabetes, and comparable to men who had been diagnosed with the disease.

The study findings suggest "that loss of orgasmic function may not only occur as a consequence of erectile dysfunction ... but also may actually precede erectile dysfunction, at least as perceived by some men with diabetes."

"Attention to potentially treatable sexual problems in middle-aged and older adults with diabetes should improve quality of life and enhance overall diabetes management," the authors write.

The study is published online in advance of print publication in the October issue of Diabetes Care.

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