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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...

"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.

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."

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