Sexual Health Q&A

How can diabetes affect a woman’s sex life?

Many women with diabetes experience sexual difficulties. If not properly controlled, high blood sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels, including those needed for good sexual function. It can also inhibit blood flow to the genitals, which heightens sensation and triggers lubrication.

Here are some of the more common issues diabetic women might face:

• Low desire and arousal. A woman’s brain is an important part of her sexuality. When she is sexually stimulated, her brain sends messages to her genitals to start getting ready for sex.

But sometimes, nerve damage from diabetes can interfere with the way these signals are transmitted. Consequently, a woman might lose interest in sex. She might not feel the pleasurable sensations. Or her body may not prepare for it sufficiently.

• Vaginal dryness. Typically, the vagina becomes wet when a woman is sexually aroused. However, high blood sugar can interfere with lubrication, leaving the vagina dry and tight. As a result, intercourse can become quite uncomfortable.

Some women find that an over-the-counter lubricant relieves dryness. (Click here to learn more about the different types of lubricants.) Estrogen therapy is another option.

• Yeast infections and urinary tract infections. High blood sugar can leave diabetic women more prone to these infections, which irritate vaginal tissue.

• Orgasm difficulties. Proper nerve signaling and genital blood flow are both necessary for sensation and orgasm.

• Depression and anxiety. Diabetes can be stressful. Managing medications, following diets, and testing blood sugar can take their toll after a while. With stress at the forefront of her mind, a woman may have trouble relaxing and enjoying intimacy.

What can diabetic women do? The first step is seeing a doctor. While diabetes can impact a woman’s sex life, other factors can, too. For example, menopause, medications, and relationship problems can all contribute to sexual problems. A complete physical may reveal other conditions that need attention.

Keeping blood sugar under control is critical, for sexual health and overall health. Women should monitor their blood sugar, follow their diets, and take medications and insulin exactly as the doctor prescribes. Regular checkups are important in case any adjustments need to be made.

Some women benefit from seeing a counselor or sex therapist as well. Sometimes, the stress of managing diabetes is overwhelming. A therapist can help a woman (and her partner) work through that stress and related anxiety.