Men and women with diabetes have to contend with a number of health issues that require attention and focus, literally from the first day of diagnosis. Many of these issues, such as weight gain, fatigue and depression, are well known. What many diabetics may not be aware of is how the disease can affect their sexual performance. In fact, over 50 per cent of diabetics claim to suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction disorder. Of this figure, 75 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women experience diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, which prevents the nerves that stimulate sexual response from functioning correctly.
As with most diseases, diabetes affects men and women in different ways. This also true when considering the effect it can have on their sex lives.
Discussing sexual problems with a doctor can be hard for most men, and many will be reluctant or feel cautious about openly discussing such issues. Although doctors will be aware of underlying sexual problems as a result of having diabetes, they require the patient to be open and honest about these issues to help ensure they can be treated appropriately.
One of the most obvious and recognizable effects diabetes can have on a man’s sex life is a loss of sexual drive or libido. One of the main contributory factors to this low sex drive is erectile dysfunction (ED) – a man’s inability to achieve and then maintain an erection. ED can develop in men due to a number of different reasons, however, the development of ED in diabetic men is usually the result of a testosterone deficiency, which simple tests can help to determine. It is important for a male diabetic to correctly diagnose the cause of ED so that it can be treated.
Once the causes of ED or loss of sexual drive are determined, the medical team can prescribe a range of treatments. Two of the more popular and commonly used treatments are a course of testosterone treatments or the use of prescription drugs such as Viagra or Levitra.
A low sex drive is also a common complaint of women suffering from diabetes. Much like men, there may be a number of contributing factors relating to this, such as increased stress, weight gain and depression.
Diabetic neuropathy affects women by limiting their sexual desires, reducing their ability to achieve orgasm and preventing adequate lubrication during sex. This nerve damage affects the feeling and sensation experienced by a woman, meaning that sex for some women can become difficult and uncomfortable. More commonly known as vaginal dryness, this condition is treatable either by purchasing a water-based vaginal lubricant or by undertaking a series of exercises known as Kegel exercises. These exercises help the woman to maintain control over the vaginal muscles, which in turn helps restore the damaged nerve endings and increase blood flow to the area.
General advice for men and women
Years of studies and research have shown both medical professionals and diabetics that rigorous monitoring of diet and blood sugar levels can help reduce the effects diabetes has on the body, including sexual performance. Medical professionals suggest eating foods that are low in sugar, low in trans fats and low in salt.
Foods containing complex carbohydrates should only be eaten in moderation. Blood sugar levels must be kept under control, as deviating too high or too low from the recommended level only increases the risk of contracting diabetes-related illnesses. Doctors also suggest breaking down daily food intake into smaller but more frequent meals. Many diabetics like to experiment with foods that are known aphrodisiacs, and in some cases these foods can have a positive effect on the individual concerned by helping them to boost their sex drive.
Sleep also plays an important part in controlling blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that diabetics that regularly sleep less than six hours a night are three times more likely to experience high blood sugar levels. A minimum of eight hours sleep is recommended for most adults, but for diabetics this is crucial. Men or women that are tired and fatigued each evening will also not have the energy or the desire to have sex or be intimate with their partner.
Suggestions for improving sex life
Daily exercise is a crucial way to keep blood flow circulating to the entire body. It helps vital organs remain healthy and function correctly. Lack of a regular exercise routine and poor blood control are two of the main factors that lead to diabetic neuropathy. The lower body is most at risk from damage to nerve endings, hence why walking and other forms of cardiovascular exercise are encouraged, as they ensure good blood flow to the genitals, legs and feet.
Sex is a form of exercise in itself, and regular sex will help to maintain blood flow to the sexual organs. For women that have sex but are struggling to reach orgasm, experts suggest changing sex routines to include more cuddling, intimacy, stimulation and foreplay, or the use of toys to help improve their sexual experience.
Article courtesy of Pacific Prime