Diabetes Self-Management Blog

It’s been a number of weeks since I wrote about sexual health, and I was reminded that my first blog entry on the topic was primarily about men. Someone commented that women have sexual problems too, but often seem to be left out of these discussions. Historically, this has been true, but over the past few years women’s sexual health has started to receive more attention.

Until recently, people who worked in the field of sexual health often considered most of women’s sexual problems to be psychological in nature. However, this is changing! Finally, more research is being done on women, and we are learning that issues such as painful intercourse, lack of desire, and difficulty lubricating are not necessarily of a psychological nature but are often associated with physical disorders.

Women who live with diabetes are more likely to have difficulty with lubrication, orgasm, and desire. These issues are similar to physical problems we have seen in men, such as erection difficulties, delayed orgasm, and retrograde ejaculation.

Diabetes can affect both nerve function and blood flow, both of which are necessary for good sexual response in men and women. In people who have had diabetes for a long time, whose blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, or who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, this risk for problems increases. The other issue with sexual problems is that sexual arousal is associated with the part of the nervous system that is not under conscious control, and the damage, once done, may not be reversible.

The good news is there is a great deal of research being done to alleviate and treat these problems. And as we baby boomers get older and richer (and have more sexual problems), the companies that sponsor research are becoming increasingly interested in our sex lives. As we reach midlife, we too are getting more interested in sustaining our sexual energy and activity. We’re just not quite ready to hang it up.

Here’s the main point: If you are having sexual difficulties, get informed and get some help for the problem. First, talk with your partner. Even if you feel nervous about discussing sex, this is the only way you will find out what your partner is thinking and feeling about the situation. Then, talk with your health-care provider about your specific problems and what kinds of treatments may be available. Your provider may be able to recommend products, such as certain lubricants or estrogen creams, or techniques, such as taking time for adequate arousal before intercourse, that can that can help with lubrication or pain problems. Your provider can also help you determine whether your blood glucose control, any other medical conditions you may have, or any medicines you take may be contributing to desire, arousal, or other sexual problems.

If your primary health-care provider can’t help you, ask for a recommendation to see someone else to see. If the provider has no recommendations, contact a urologist or an OB/GYN specialist. If you are still struggling after taking these steps, leave a comment on the blog and I’ll do my best to give you some direction. Some Web sites that offer information on sexual issues and diabetes are www.aasect.org, www.SexualHealth.com, and www.diabetes.org/gestational-diabetes/women-sexual-health.jsp.

I hope that this information will be useful.

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