Women, Sex and Diabetes: Are You Suffering in Silence?

Health Realizations

July 2011

Diabetes impacts over 9 million U.S. women, 3 million of whom have not been diagnosed. Along with increasing the risk of heart attack, miscarriages, yeast infections, eye and nerve damage, and more, diabetes increases the risk of sexual problems — a largely unspoken problem among women.

Sexual dysfunction is a topic most often associated with men, and while men with diabetes are more likely to lose interest in sex or experience erectile dysfunction, women with diabetes are also more likely to have sexual side effects.

How Does Diabetes Impact a Woman’s Sexual Health?

When you have type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps lower the amount of sugar in your bloodstream after you eat. This results in sugar building up in your bloodstream, a potentially dangerous condition.

If left untreated or uncontrolled, numerous complications can develop, many of which can impact your sex life.

For instance, women with diabetes are much more likely to suffer from depression than women without the condition, and this can take away your desire for sex, as can feelings of anxiety about the condition.

Diabetes also makes it more difficult for women to achieve orgasm. In one study in the journal Diabetes, 35 percent of women with diabetes were unable to have an orgasm during intercourse, compared to 6 percent of those without the disease.

Other studies have found that women with diabetes are more likely to report:

  • Inhibited sexual excitement, inhibited sexual desire and dyspareunia (pain during intercourse)
  • Dysfunction of sexual desire, arousal and orgasm
  • Decreased vaginal lubrication, which can result from high blood sugar levels and impact orgasm as well make sex uncomfortable or painful
  • Yeast infections and urinary tract infections

High blood sugar levels actually lead to numerous disruptions that can impact your ability to have a healthy sex life. Aside from decreasing vaginal lubrication, uncontrolled blood glucose can lead to nerve damage that makes it difficult for women to experience sexual stimulation (and also leads to erectile dysfunction in men).

Nerve damage, including peripheral neuropathy, is common in people with diabetes, but most often is associated with foot numbness and tingling. However, damage can also occur to nerves in the pelvis, which are necessary for sexual stimulation.

So there are both psychological and physical issues that can interfere with diabetic women’s sexual health, but one fact is certain: it can take a serious toll on your quality of life.

Researchers in the journal Diabetes Spectrum explain:

“Our study revealed that in diabetic women, sexual dysfunction was related to lower marital satisfaction, more symptoms of depression, negative appraisal of diabetes, poorer emotional adjustment to diabetes, higher impact of diabetes treatment on daily life, and low satisfaction with treatment.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.