Sex and Type 2 Diabetes

Your sex life should not stop with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. While getting intimate may present challenges, many sexual problems that arise can be treated if caught in time. We’ve decided to discuss five important ideas about sex and diabetes with five great songs about sex, just to keep things interesting.

Talk Dirty To Me

First off, communication is key, and not just with your partner. Even though people with diabetes are at a higher risk for sexual problems than the average population, a 2010 study found that only 50 percent of men with diabetes and 19 percent of women with diabetes have discussed their sex lives with their doctors.

So start the conversation, if you haven’t already! Your doctor will be able to provide you with personalized advice, as well as information about how your specific medications could be affecting your sex life.

That being said, communicating with your partner is also crucial. Sometimes, partners can feel embarrassed or ashamed, or simply think it easier to avoid sexual issues than to confront them. We think that having “the talk” will help you both be comfortable with each other and may even open you up to the possibility of new, and pleasurable, experiences.

Let’s Get Physical.

One of the main problems people with Type 2 diabetes might face is lowered sex drive. This could be due to medication, lack of energy, hormonal changes, or even mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. For men, this lack of libido could also be due to low testosterone, a condition that can be improved with weight loss and testosterone therapy.

Another issue is that diabetes restricts blood flow to extremities, which can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). Between 20 percent and 75 percent of men will have problems with ED. Fortunately, this can be treated in several ways, including with drugs (like Viagra and Cialis), constriction rings, vacuum pumps, support sleeves, and penile implants. High glucose levels can also cause retrograde ejaculation, where semen is ejaculated back into the bladder instead of out of the penis. In addition, if men with diabetes experience pain during sex, it could be Peyronie’s disease, a condition where scar tissue causes curved and painful erections; this needs to be treated.

People with diabetes may also experience diabetic neuropathy, or peripheral nerve problems, which can cause numbness, pain, or lack of feeling in the genitals. This can prevent orgasm or make sex painful and unenjoyable. For women, this also often means vaginal dryness or difficulty reaching orgasm. Diabetic women also have increased rates of vaginal infections, inflammation, and urinary tract infections. Vaginal dryness can be easily remedied with lubricant (just make sure it’s sugar free!), or with prescription estrogen. Trouble orgasming also can be due to antidepressants or medications. Women should also pay special attention to vaginal pH levels, as increased blood glucose can throw those levels out of whack.

Let’s Get It On

First, set the scene. Remember that, while sex is important, so is your relationship. There are plenty of ways to attend to your relationship and share intimacy without sex, such as a date night, a bath, or massages. If you feel that diabetes and its care have overtaken parts of your relationship, suggest a date night where diabetes-talk is off limits. Maybe you’ll even get lucky later.

If low energy is a problem, try having sex at times when your energy is peak, as opposed to the evening after a long day. Also, the vascular changes and nerve damage caused by diabetes can mean that what used to stimulate you may not work any more. All this means is that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. If you experience neuropathy, or reduced sensation in certain areas, sex toys like vibrators may help. It’s been found that using a vibrator on areas with reduced feeling for a few minutes per day can actually restore stimulation in both men and women.

Pour Some Sugar On Me

Much like with exercise, sex will lower your blood sugar levels – and nothing says “romance” quite like a hypoglycemic episode, right? No, so make sure you check your blood glucose levels before sex and be prepared to treat low blood sugar, if needed, with snacks (strawberries? cream?). Make sure that your partner is aware of how you are managing your diabetes.

Sexual Healing

If your diabetes is brought under control, sexual issues often resolve themselves. Not only can exercise reduce symptoms associated with diabetes, but it also can invigorate your sex life by strengthening your heart, improving flexibility and stamina, and increasing blood flow to those all-important areas.

I Will Always Love You

Remember that regardless of your diagnosis, you want your partner – and all the people in your life – to love you for who you are. So don’t be afraid to start a conversation about your diabetes, whether it be with a new potential partner or someone you’ve loved for years.

Now go out there and get it on.

Kate Doughty is a third-year student at the University of Virginia, where she is studying English with an area concentration in literary prose.

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