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How Diabetes Affects Your Sex Life

No doubt, it can be embarrassing to talk with your health-care provider about your sex life. You're not alone: Many people with diabetes encounter difficulties with sex but don't deal with them because they don't want to discuss them. Let the information and advice here guide your conversation and help you sort out solutions.

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It's easy to pin a lagging libido on stress, depression, age, or lack of sleep. But if your sexual feelings have changed or if intercourse has become uncomfortable or nearly impossible, either as a result of chronically high blood glucose levels (an occasional high level will not cause long-term problems) or nerve problems, diabetes could be the cause.

Experts estimate that 75 percent of men and 35 percent of women with diabetes experience some sexual problems due to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) to the nerves that stimulate normal sexual response.

The good news: Research has shown that people can lower their risk for diabetes-related sexual problems by taking steps to control their diabetes, including:

  • controlling blood glucose.

  • lowering blood pressure.

  • lowering cholesterol.

  • lowering triglyceride levels.

The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), a 10-year National Institutes of Health study of individuals with type 1 diabetes, found that improved diabetes control decreased the risk of developing neuropathy by 60 percent. This means the steps you can take to manage your diabetes are the same keys that open the doors to a healthy sexual relationship.

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