Sexual Dysfunction Common in Diabetes

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Sexual Dysfunction Common in Diabetes

About a third of people with diabetes experience sexual dysfunction, with some difference in rates between men and women and between those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, according to research findings presented virtually at the ATTD (Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes) 2021 conference, and announced in a press release.

Sexual dysfunction has long been known to disproportionately affect people with diabetes, but the exact reasons for this link haven’t been completely understood. It’s well established that cardiovascular problems — which are common in people with long-term diabetes — can lead to erectile dysfunction in men, but the causes of sexual dysfunction in women may be more complex and less easily explained by one factor. And, in fact, recent research has shown that problems with nerve communication, rather than cardiovascular problems, may be responsible for erectile dysfunction in many men with diabetes.

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Sexual dysfunction common in men and women

For the latest study, participants with diabetes completed a questionnaire about numerous aspects of their condition, including sexual issues if they reported being sexually active in the past four weeks. Overall, sexual dysfunction was common in men and women with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Out of 174 men with type 1, 32.2% reported sexual dysfunction, and out of 237 men with type 2, 39.7% reported it. Out of 242 women with type 1, 36.0% reported sexual dysfunction, and out of 103 women with type 2, 26.2% did so. The different relationship between these numbers for men and women — more men with type 2 reporting sexual dysfunction, and more women with type 1 doing so — indicate that the exact ways that diabetes leads to sexual dysfunction may be different in men and women.

The researchers also noted in their presentation that because these numbers only apply to people who reported being sexually active in the last four weeks, they probably underestimate the actual frequency of sexual dysfunction in people with diabetes. Many people with diabetes may be sexually inactive due, at least in part, to sexual dysfunction.

The most commonly reported sexual problems in men were erectile dysfunction and orgasmic dysfunction, while the most common problems in women were reduced sexual desire, lubrication problems, and orgasmic dysfunction. In general, men or women tended to report the same kinds of problems regardless of whether they had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, with the exception of erectile dysfunction being more common in men with type 2 than type 1. But the researchers noted that this finding may be explained, at least in part, by the older age of men with type 2 diabetes.

Among men with diabetes, older age, longer diabetes duration, and larger waist circumference were linked to a greater risk for sexual dysfunction. Among women with diabetes, those factors were not linked to a greater risk for sexual problems, while use of antidepressants was. Women with sexual dysfunction were more likely to report poor overall well-being and high anxiety than women without sexual dysfunction. For both men and women, reporting a high level of diabetes distress was linked to greater sexual dysfunction.

The researchers noted that since this study relied on self-reporting, it may not completely show the sexual problems that men and women with diabetes experience, or the factors linked to them. More research in different settings in needed to more completely understand the scope of sexual dysfunction in people with diabetes.

Want to learn more about improving your sex life with diabetes? Read “When Diabetes Affects Your Sex Life,” “Better Intimacy With Diabetes” and “When Viagra Doesn’t Work.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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