How Diabetes Affects Sexual Well-Being

Diabetes can affect the sexual well-being of both men and women. Here’s what our expert says. 

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaUpdated at: Oct 31, 2022 19:02 IST
How Diabetes Affects Sexual Well-Being

Did you know that one in 12 adults in India is living with diabetes? India has the second highest population of people with diabetes (74 million) after China and nearly 53.1% of the people living with diabetes remain undiagnosed. Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to convert the sugar (glucose) in food into energy either due to insufficiency of the insulin hormone or due to defective insulin. This leads to very high blood glucose levels.  

During awareness campaigns about diabetes, doctors and experts sensitise the masses about the dangers of high blood sugar levels in diabetes. These can damage the blood vessels and nerves (neuropathy) leading to several life-threatening complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputation. However, one important aspect that is often overlooked is that this damage can also affect the patient’s sexual well-being. Diabetes can cause several sexual problems which can impact patients in various ways. 0nlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Mr. Pranay Jivrajka– Founder and CEO, Allo Health, to know about the impact of diabetes on sexual well-being of men and women. 

Diabetes and sexual well-being

With rising awareness about the importance of health, it is imperative to destigmatize conversations about sexual health as it can often take a backseat while dealing with a chronic condition. In men with diabetes, low testosterone levels are often observed. This can result in low libido, ejaculatory concerns and erectile dysfunction (ED). The high sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves supplying to the penis too, leading to problems with blood flow along with loss of sensation.  In fact, ED is very common in diabetes with one out of every 2 men affected by it.

Similarly, in women with diabetes, hormonal changes or the lack of blood supply to the vagina can lead to vaginal dryness. This lack of lubrication is very common. Other problems include reduced sexual arousal, painful intercourse, problems with orgasm, lack of sexual satisfaction, and anxiety. Women are also at greater risk for urinary tract infections and vaginal inflammation, which could inhibit sexual intercourse. 

Also read: Erectile Dysfunction Common Among Men With Diabetes. Expert Shares Prevention Tips

How does it affect both men and women?

Both men and women with diabetes can also be affected by thrush, a kind of fungal infection which can be transferred from one person to another during sex. Diabetes also has significant psychological effects which can impact sexual well-being. Often, people with diabetes suffer from low self-esteem and face the risk of depression. In women, the association between psychological factors such as anger, anxiety and depression can strongly affect their overall quality of life, which includes their sexual health.

Managing sexual problems

Though diabetes is associated with several sexual problems, reaching out for professional help is the first and the most important step on the road to recovery. Along with a diabetologist, consulting both a sexual and a mental health professional can help patients manage the long-term effects of their condition. Normalizing blood glucose levels by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and taking appropriate medication can help in reducing the impact of diabetes on sexual health. Consulting a mental health professional is important as it can help one deal with stress and relationship problems. Therefore, early screening and constant monitoring can give way to a better quality of life.