Sex in Vegas

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Hey, team: I’m speaking in Las Vegas next week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. The talk is called “Sex Secrets of People With Diabetes.” The title refers to the sex problems we don’t talk about, and the solutions that are also rarely mentioned.

My main point is that people with diabetes experience a lot of sexual issues, and those problems can damage relationships, quality of life, self-management behavior, and health. But with some creativity and courage, these folks can often have better sex lives than before. Unfortunately, there is very little professional help available for sex issues. Most educators and doctors are uncomfortable discussing and ignorant about sex problems and what to do about them.

I report on one couple who wrote me that they were at the point of divorce because the man had stopped having erections and had totally withdrawn from all physical contact. “I could have lived without the sex,” his wife wrote. “But not with this cold lack of intimacy.”

I want the educators to know that these are important issues, and that they can do something about them. In this couple’s case, they could have been helped with erection treatments, depression treatment, communication skills, medication changes, and teaching about sex without intercourse.

When people think of sex problems, they usually think of “erectile dysfunction.” That’s what gets all the media attention, the medical research, and the drug company profits. And it really is a problem. But there is just as much “dysfunction” among women. I’m going to talk about pain with intercourse, dryness, lack of orgasms.

Then there’s the so-called “secondary dysfunctions,” when other diabetes symptoms like fatigue, pain, or numbness interfere with sexuality. There are psychological issues that often come along with diabetes: depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem. There are the side effects of medicines used for depression or for high blood pressure. Some people experience loss of desire. And finally there are the difficulties people with diabetes sometimes have finding romance in the first place.

When I look at these last two paragraphs, I’m impressed that anyone with diabetes manages to have sex at all! But of course, most do. That’s a testimonial to our people’s courage and creativity.

I’m planning humor and some practice exercises to make things interesting and fun. I’ve got some cool slides — including colorful diagrams I’m using to show people how to stimulate their G-spot (or their partner’s), and interesting diagrams of penis pumps and how they work. I’m hoping educators will leave with some new ways to help their patients, but at the very least they might learn some ways to enjoy themselves!

I’m going to give special attention to nonintercourse sex, ways people can have hot, pleasurable, orgasmic love without penetration or erections. We’ll also cover facing diabetes as a couple — how partners can work together and how health professionals can help them do it.

I really wish I were spending longer in Vegas. We will only have 48 hours. We’re staying at the Luxor for $50 a night through a special conference deal. That price includes two buffets for two, each day for three days, even though we’re only staying two nights! Perhaps we can see a show at Mandalay Bay. I’ll probably be too tired, but maybe Aisha can go. There are a couple of friends we might see, including a couple of Diabetes Self-Management blog readers (Hi Beth!) and writers.

So it will be a good time, although traveling with disability can always be dicey. I have to get fresh batteries for my scooter and bring all my supplies. The thing that scares me most is the heat. It’s been 105° in Vegas this week. If that keeps up, my multiple sclerosis will not be happy.

We’re bringing some new brochures for my talks and for Aisha’s and my workshops for couples, hoping to drum up some interest. The main benefit, though, is all the cool things to learn in the lectures and in the exhibit area. I’ll share as much as I can with you in coming weeks.

If you’ve got any last-minute ideas I should put in the talk, or stories about your own life with sex and diabetes, please let me know by commenting here or e-mailing me directly.

Wish me luck!

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