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Can diabetes interfere with a woman’s sex life?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Diabetes can affect a woman's sex life too.

Researchers know diabetes can interfere with male sexual function because of vascular damage that can lead to impotence. Until now, little attention has been given to how diabetes impacts a woman's sex life.

Orgasm, lubrication problems more prevalent for women taking insulin

Among new findings from an investigation by a University of California, San Francisco team are that diabetes can lead women to experience lower sexual satisfaction than women without the disease, even though diabetes may not necessarily affect a woman’s desire for sex.

Women who take insulin were found to be at higher risk for orgasm and lubrication problems, according to findings taken from questionnaires sent to 2,270 women aged 40 to 80 years who were insulin-treated diabetic, non-insulin-treated diabetic or non-diabetic.

Researchers compared the women’s answers to their self-reported desire to have sex, level of satisfaction how often they had sex and what specific problems they might be experiencing, such as trouble becoming aroused, pain, orgasm or difficulty with lubrication.

The researchers also assessed other health factors like heart disease, kidney dysfunction, stroke and neuropathy to discover if complications of diabetes also impact a woman’s sex life.

Just over 63 percent of the women said they had engaged in some sort of sexual activity within the past 3 months.

Compared to non-diabetic women, the odds of low sexual satisfaction and lubrication problems were double for women taking insulin.

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Women without diabetes reported 40% higher sexual satisfaction than women being treated for diabetes with insulin.

Diabetes complications were found to interfere with at least one area of sexual difficulty.

The researchers adjusted for women taking antidepressants, which are known to have sexual side effects. The authors note they didn’t know whether women questioned had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but based on how old the women were when they were diagnosed with the disease and when they started insulin, it’s assumed most had type 2.

Study author Kelli Copeland, BA, of the UCSF Women’s Health Clinical Research Center said in a press release, “Based on this research, clinicians may want to consider assessing diabetic women for sexual problems, particularly among those taking insulin, and counsel them that prevention of end-organ complications may be important in preserving sexual function.”

Complications can be avoided by keeping blood sugars under control, eating a variety of plant based healthy foods at regular meal times and remaining physically active; especially through aerobic exercises.

The study sheds new light on how diabetes can interfere with a woman’s sex life. Changes in blood flow to the vaginal and surrounding tissues that can lead to trouble with arousal, diabetes medications or other factors associated with diabetes could all contribute to sexual problems.

Obstetrics and Gynecology
"Diabetes Mellitus and Sexual Function in Middle-Aged and Older Women"
Kelli L. Copeland, BA, et al
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825ec5fa
August, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile