HOW DIABETES CAN AFFECT A WOMAN`S SEX LIFE
Updated: Feb 19
People who live with diabetes quickly notice that this disease affects many things in life, such as sleep or mental health. But diabetics are also at a higher risk for experiencing sexual difficulties. A 2010 study found out that less than 20% of women living with diabetes have discussed this topic with their doctor - which is why it is so important to talk about the impact diabetes can have on a person's sex life.
Several studies found that women with diabetes struggle with lower libido due to several reasons: Firstly, sexual desire is also a matter of the brain. Diabetes is something which constantly is on your mind and managing a chronic disease is often very stressful. This can make it hard to relax, get your mind off things and enjoy intimacy. Secondly, lower sexual desire can also be a consequence of poorly controlled blood sugar levels or a side effect of different medications.
Studies show moreover that women living with diabetes can struggle with sexual arousal, which also can be a consequence of poor diabetes control: Nerves and blood vessels can be damaged, preventing the body to get aroused. Nerve damage can also be the cause for vaginal dryness, which affects women with diabetes twice as often as women without the disease.
Even though women in general are said to have more difficulties achieving an orgasm than men, women living with diabetes might have even harder times getting to the “big O”. Since the neurovascular system is responsible for whether we can feel arousal and have an orgasm, it can be a problem if small nerves aren’t functioning properly: blood flow and sensation are both necessary for reaching an orgasm and if these two aspects aren’t fulfilled, it may lead to difficulties reaching an orgasm.
Of course, these problems are not necessarily a consequence of diabetes – but it can be a side effect of it, especially in case of poorly controlled blood sugar levels. If you have been dealing with one or several of these problems and you didn’t know why, your diabetes might be an explanation. Apart from that, it might also just feel good to know that you’re not alone.
Note: It is really important for me that my articles are as gender inclusive as possible and I usually try to use gender neutral pronouns and words. But since the studies I refer to examined women and always referred to “women” when talking about the study participants, I thought it would distort the information and findings. If there’s a better way please let me know, I still have a lot to learn.
Greta Ehlers is a type one diabetic with a passion for classical music and writing. She founded her blog and Instagram account gretastypeone to raise awareness about type one diabetes and everyday life with a chronic condition. Greta is currently studying a master's degree in Strategic Communication at Lund University, Sweden.
Doruk, H. et al (2005): Effect of Diabetes Mellitus on Female Sexual Function and Risk Factors. In: Archives of Andrology. Journal of Reproductive Systems, 51(1), pp. 1-6
Kolodny, R. (1971): Sexual Dysfunction in Diabetic Females. In: Diabetes, 20(8), pp. 557-559.
Schreiner-Engel, P. (1987): The differential impact of diabetes type on female sexuality. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 31(1), pp. 23-33.
Cleveland Clinic: Diabetes and Female Sexuality.