Diabetes and Sexual Health

August 09,2021 |
Couple watching a sunset

There are several benefits to having a healthy sex life. Sex helps to ease anxiety, lower stress hormones, keep you physically fit, and deepens the bond between partners. While most healthy adults incorporate sex into their routines, people living with chronic conditions tend to face more obstacles. This is especially true for those living with type 2 diabetes. For more information, here is the relationship between diabetes and sexual health.

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction

Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts how your body transforms food into energy. In type 1 diabetes, your body produces very little or no insulin on its own. In type 2 diabetes, your body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces or begins to develop a resistance to insulin. This often results in high blood sugar levels, which can lead to a variety of chronic conditions and complications. High blood pressure has a direct effect on heart health, circulation, and nerve damage, thus creating an array of sexual complications. The biggest relationship between diabetes and sexual health occurs due to a combination of the following factors.

Emotional Health Concerns

Both men and women living with diabetes undergo a lot of emotional distress. Managing the chronic condition full-time can leave people feeling tired or even self-conscious. Those who wear physical insulin pumps may be less comfortable showing their body to others and many people may lose interest altogether. This is worsened if you’re suffering from diabetes distress.

Hormonal Changes

Diabetes can cause a change in the balance of hormones in both men and women. It can result in fluctuating levels of testosterone and estrogen, which in turn impact a person’s libido and other sexual functions. If you think that you may be experiencing hormonal problems, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Reduced Blood Flow

Due to the correlation between diabetes and heart health, it’s common that those living with diabetes experience a reduced blood flow accompanied by poor circulation. This can impact the amount of blood that reaches the penis or vagina, which can contribute to erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness respectively.

Medication Side Effects

In addition to insulin, there are several medications that people living with diabetes may be taking. Some people need to take medications to combat high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or more. These medications can have an impact on your sexual function. If you think that your medications are impacting your sexual health, talk to your doctor about trying something else.

Nerve Damage

Chronic high blood sugar levels lead to nerve damage, which is why diabetic neuropathy is common amongst those living with diabetes. Our sexual organs are filled with sensitive nerves and when these are damaged, it can reduce sensation and lead to sexual dysfunctions. Since diabetic neuropathy cannot be reversed, properly managing your glucose levels on an ongoing basis is essential.

Diabetes does not necessarily cause sexual dysfunction. However, improperly managed diabetes in conjunction with unhealthy lifestyle habits can cause both male and female specific sexual health issues.

Sexual Health Issues Specific to Men

When you’re living with diabetes, there are several changes to your blood vessels, hormones, emotions, circulation, and nerves that can occur. Any of these on their own, or in combination, can increase sexual health issues specific to men.

  • Erectile Dysfunction – diabetes can decrease blood flow to the penis, making erectile dysfunction more common. In fact, men with diabetes are more than 3 times more likely to experience ED than men without diabetes.


  • Retrograde Ejaculation – although rare, diabetes can contribute to retrograde ejaculation, which causes your semen to enter your bladder instead of through the penis.


  • Penile Curvature – men living with diabetes are more likely to experience Peyronie’s disease, which is when there is a curvature in the penis due to scar tissue build up.


  • Low Testosterone – diabetes can affect your level of testosterone, which can further contribute to ED, low sex drives, and feelings of fatigue or depression.


  • Fertility Problems – there have been some studies that have reported that men living with diabetes have a more difficult time conceiving due to problems with their sperm. If you’re trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about testing your sperm and alternative options for insemination.

Sexual Health Issues Specific to Women

Diabetes also affects women in specific ways. Some of the most common sexual challenges for women living with diabetes include the following:

  • Pain During Intercourse – pain during sex is often caused by vaginal dryness. Women with diabetes experience more dryness due to decreased nerve sensation or diabetic neuropathy.


  • Urinary Tract Infections – urinary tract infections are more common in women living with diabetes. UTIs can be uncomfortable and severely impact a woman’s sexual experience. Getting treatment early is essential, but if you have chronic UTIs talk to your doctor about preventative measures you can take.


  • Yeast Infections – women living with diabetes have a higher rate of yeast infections than women without diabetes due to heightened blood sugar. Yeast infections are easily treatable, but when left untreated can progress to bladder infections.


  • Orgasm Troubles – unfortunately, many women living with diabetes have difficulty with orgasms. In fact, it was found that about 80% of women taking insulin had trouble reaching orgasm when compared to women who don’t have diabetes. Talk to your doctor about ways to help overcome this issue


  • Fertility Problems – polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is more prevalent in women living with diabetes, which can make it difficult to become pregnant. If you’re having trouble conceiving, talk to a fertility specialist or your gynecologist to discuss your options.

Maintain a Healthy Sex Life with Diabetes

While you are at a higher risk for sexual dysfunctions when you’re living with diabetes, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a healthy sex life. There are a few things that you can try to improve your sex life and start feeling like yourself again.

Try Different Times of the Day

Many people wait until the end of the day to try to have sex, but this is also when our energy, and sometimes morale, is the lowest. Try having sex at different times of the day. Mornings or afternoons can provide the right amount of energy you need.

Use Lubricants

Since many women with diabetes experience vaginal dryness in varying degrees, try using water-based lubricants. This can help reduce irritation or pain and increase sexual stimulation between partners.

Try New Medications

If you’re currently taking medications that you believe have an impact on your sexual function, talk to your doctor about switching. You can also utilize hormone replacement therapy or specific medications to improve performance. Always discuss medications, including over-the-counter supplements, with your doctor to make sure that they’re safe to consume.

Stay Healthy

There is a direct link between type 2 diabetes and ultra-processed foods, so make sure that you’re opting for healthy, nutrient dense meals. Maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise to help stabilize your blood sugar levels and make diabetes management easier.

Incorporate Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are a great way to strengthen the muscles that are activated during sex. Both men and women can perform Kegel exercises, which may improve problems with incontinence, control of ejaculation, and a woman’s sexual response.

Overcome Incontinence

Incontinence is a common issue with both men and women living with diabetes, but it occurs more often with women during sex. Don’t let incontinence ruin the mood. Talk to your doctor about how to manage leaks and take some extra precaution before sex by communicating with your partner and using incontinence products to simplify clean-up.

Focus on Your Relationship

Intimacy comes in many forms. Sex isn’t the only way to bond with your partner. Focus on strengthening your relationship in other ways to help you stay connected. Doing so will likely lead to a healthier sex life and an increased feeling of intimacy.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re still struggling with a healthy sex life, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Millions of people are living with diabetes and many of them experience sexual struggles at one point or another. Be open and honest—your doctor is there to help.

Properly managing your diabetes is absolutely essential to a long and healthy life. If you’re pre-diabetic, talk to your doctor about tips to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. To help make sure you’re doing everything you can to manage your diabetes effectively and improve your sexual health Byram Healthcare has a range of continuous blood glucose monitors. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for comprehensive care.