Sexual Dysfunction and Diabetes
Individuals who suffer from diabetes often suffer long-term consequences complications from a high level of glucose in the blood stream. This high level of glucose is a result of the metabolic condition called diabetes. Over the long term one of these significant medical conditions which results is erectile dysfunction or sexual dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem in men who have diabetes but, thanks to recent advancements in treatment protocols, it is not inevitable. Physicians now have strategies to prevent this condition as well as treatment options for men who all ready have difficulties with sexual dysfunction.
Men who have diabetes are three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than are other men, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
In fact, it is estimated that up to 85% of men who have diabetes will experience some degree of erectile dysfunction. And, the longer an individual has had diabetes and the more severe the condition, the more likely they are to have trouble with erections. (1)
Men Don’t Like Talking About It
When this condition is left untreated it results in frustration, discouragement and often depression. Unfortunately, it is also a condition which men are unwilling to speak about with ease. For this reason physicians who are treating a man with diabetes should take an active role in seeking information about their sexual health in order to assist in any way possible.
Basically, erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an adequate erection for satisfying sexual activity. In some instances the penis does not become hard at all and in other instances it does not become hard enough to have sex. (2) Many people are aware of the medications available to treat men who have erectile dysfunction as they grow older.
The advertising for Viagra and Cialis, to name just two medications, is so widespread that most individuals who live within earshot of a television or who have picked up a magazine will have some knowledge of these option.
However, men who have diabetes can suffer from this condition for other reasons. A person who has diabetes which is not strictly controlled will have excess sugar in the blood stream that will damage nerves and blood vessels that are responsible for erections.
This means that while the brain may be ready, the information is not relayed adequately to the sexual organ which does not respond at all. This means that the recent advancements in drug therapy are not as successful in men who have erectile dysfunction as a result of diabetes.
This lack of response should not be misinterpreted as a lack of interest. In fact, the opposite is quite often true. The man is often very interested but because of nerve damage or vascular damage, the body is unable to respond.
Men who have diabetes which is poorly controlled can also have difficulty with the inhibition of the release of nitric oxide. If there is too little nitric oxide in the blood system it can hamper the flow to the penis which again makes it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. Other underlying medical conditions can also affect the situation, such as cardiovascular disease or hardening of the arteries.
However, although men are more likely to be identified as having sexual problems with their diabetes, both men and women can develop problems because of the damage to nerves and small blood vessels. The reason for the sexual dysfunction is the same, the damage to the nerve endings and blood vessels because of the high levels of glucose in the blood system.
Women With Diabetes
Research into sexual problems in women with diabetes is very limited at this point. Some estimate that between 18 and 27% of women will experience some type of sexual dysfunction, such as decreased lubrication, painful intercourse, lack of sexual desire and decreased or absent response. (3)
Decreased or absent sexual response can include the inability to become or remain aroused. It can also mean that the woman has reduced or no sensation in the genital area with the constant or occasional inability to reach orgasm.
Women who have difficulty with lubrication can purchase prescription or over-the-counter vaginal lubricants. There are also techniques used to treat decreased sexual responses which can include changes in position and a variety of different stimulation during sexual relations.
Some women also find that using Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles can improve sexual response. Currently, there are studies underway for drug treatment specifically designed for women who are suffering from sexual dysfunction as a result of diabetes.
(1) National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes
(2) National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Erectile Dysfunction
(3) National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes