Similarly, it is not just the physical side effects of diabetes that cause problems. Diabetes can have an impact on a person’s mental health, their sex drive, and their self-esteem.
Impact on women
Diabetes may impact a woman’s sexual health by damaging the nerves that can sense sexual stimulation.
Damage caused by diabetes to the nerves can affect a woman’s ability to sense sexual stimulation and arousal. This can affect the release of vaginal lubricant, which may result in painful sex and reduced ability to experience an orgasm.
When a woman who has diabetes goes through the menopause, she may experience sudden drops in her blood sugar levels. This may affect a woman’s sexual health because she may have to check her blood sugar before having sex.
She might also experience symptoms of low blood sugar during sex. This may make sex seem more of an inconvenience than a pleasure.
Women with diabetes are also more likely to experience infections, such as thrush, cystitis, and urinary tract infections. These can all impact the ability to have sexual intercourse.
Impact on men
Men with diabetes often have reduced testosterone levels, which can affect their sex drive. However, the main sexual health problem affecting men who have diabetes is an inability to achieve and, or, maintain an erection. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, an estimated 50 percent of men who have had diabetes for 10 years experience erectile dysfunction (ED).
In order for a man to achieve an erection, significant blood flow to the penis is required. However, diabetes damages the blood vessels, which can affect blood flow to the penis. Diabetes can also lead to nerve damage that affects communication between a man’s penis and his brain. This may make it more difficult for him to maintain an erection.
Impact on both sexes
People with diabetes can often feel very tired. They often invest a significant amount of time in managing their health, which may decrease their overall sex drive.
People with diabetes may also experience a number of psychological effects, which may make sex more difficult for them. Examples include:
- affected self-image
- concerns over weight gain
- loss of self-esteem
Living a healthful lifestyle is an important way for men and women with diabetes to achieve good sexual health. This can include eating a healthful diet and exercising regularly. These practices are excellent for overall good health, and can promote self-esteem.
If a person is overweight, losing weight will often help to improve their feelings of well-being, which can then improve their sex life.
Pelvic floor exercises
According to the Cleveland Clinic, exercises for the pelvic floor muscles known as Kegel exercises may improve a woman’s sexual response.
Follow these simple instructions to Isolate and exercise the muscles:
Identify the pelvic floor muscles by sitting on the toilet and trying to stop a stream of urine. Or insert a finger into the vagina and squeeze the vaginal muscles around the finger. These are the target muscles.
Tighten and hold the muscles. Start by holding the muscles for about 3 seconds and then releasing for 3 seconds. Repeat the exercise 10 times in a row, if possible.
Repeat the exercises at least twice per day, increasing the length of time the muscles are contracted from 3 seconds to 5 seconds.
Men can also do Kegel exercises and may find the exercises improve their control over ejaculation and reduce incidences of incontinence.
People with diabetes may find that engaging in stress-reducing practices can help. Examples of these practices include meditation, reading a favorite book, exercising, or listening to music.
Taking even a small amount of time during the day to do something enjoyable can help reduce stress for people with diabetes.