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When Diabetes Affects Your Sex Life

by David Spero, RN

Depending on the nature of your problem, its likely cause, and your doctor’s experience treating such problems, he may refer you to a specialist such as a urologist or gynecologist for diagnosis and/or treatment.

What if you feel your concerns are being brushed aside when you bring up sexual difficulties in the doctor’s office? It may be that your doctor feels uncomfortable talking about sexual issues. Neurologist Dr. Jack Burks suggests, “First ask the doctor if he feels comfortable talking about this. Or would he prefer to refer you to someone else? Include your partner in the discussion if you’re both willing. Ask for additional resources, such as a psychotherapist or sex therapist.”

Sexual self-management
There’s a lot you can do on your own, too, to improve your sex life, whether you are able to actually change your physical functioning or simply learn new ways to enjoy what you have. Here are some ideas:

  • Make an effort to control your blood pressure with stress-reduction techniques, such as the relaxation response, as well as exercise and dietary changes. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, these lifestyle measures can improve your health.
  • If you are overweight, make an effort to lose some weight through sensible dietary changes and increased physical activity. A recent Canadian study found that aging male rats recovered their erectile function with exercise and calorie restriction. If it works for rats, it might work for you!
  • Commit to your diabetes care regimen. Psychologist Steven Phillipson says, “High blood sugar often decreases sexual interest. Libido may return as blood sugar is brought down to a normal level.”
  • If vaginal dryness is a problem, make liberal use of personal lubricants, which are available over the counter at any drugstore.
  • If decreased sensation is a problem, experiment with different ways of genital stimulation, possibly using more pressure than you usually do or using an electronic vibrator. Applying cold or heat to the genitals for a few minutes may increase sensitivity. A bag of frozen peas can be an effective cold pack.
  • Gauge your energy level. If one or both partners are too tired, sex won’t be good. Some couples resolve this issue by scheduling sex for mornings or for whatever time they’re likely to have energy.
  • Get in the mood. Most people can’t go directly from work, housework, or taking care of others to sexual activity. You may need to take some time to relax or talk, dress up, go somewhere special, watch a sexy video, or do something else to get in the mood.
  • Relationship problems can interfere with the desire to have sex, so those may need to be addressed before mutually enjoyable sexual activity can take place.
  • Reduce the likelihood of urinary incontinence by emptying your bladder before making love. For women, woman-on-top positions may reduce problems with incontinence or pain with intercourse. Such positions may also be more comfortable for some men, particularly those with back pain.
  • Try something other than intercourse. If intercourse isn’t possible or pleasurable, find ways of enjoying your body that do give pleasure.

Trying something new
One of the sad things about Mike and Barbara’s story is that when Mike couldn’t get a good erection, he thought he couldn’t have sex at all. Our society tends to think of heterosexual sex in a very limited way — as penis–vagina intercourse. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of sex, but there are many other ways to experience sexual pleasure that don’t require an erect penis.

For example, women do not require an erect penis to have an orgasm. In fact, most women can’t climax from intercourse alone because there are few nerve endings deep in the vagina. However, women do have a great number of nerves for pleasure around the outside of the vaginal opening and just inside. The organ best known for having a dense nerve supply is the clitoris. However, while many think of the clitoris as just the visible tip at the junction of the inner lips of the vulva, in fact, the clitoris is a horseshoe-shape structure that extends along the rim of the vaginal opening on either side. You can stimulate both the surface “button” and the deeper horseshoe shape with the fingers, the side of your hand, or your mouth, using as much or as little pressure as is comfortable. Using some lubricant can also enhance a woman’s pleasure and comfort.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

 

 

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