Diabetes and Sexual Health Issues for Women and Their Partners

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by R. Keith Campbell Rph, FAADE, CDE

Last month the topic of men’s sex health and diabetes was covered. Sexual disorders in men, whether they have diabetes or not, are more obvious than sexual problems in women with diabetes. However, just like men, the subject of sexual disorders is seldom if ever confronted by health care providers (HCP).

An article in this year’s March 22nd issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that obstetricians and gynecologists rarely ask their patients about sexual practices or sexuality. Male physicians are less likely to discuss the subject. If female patients were asked about sexual pleasure or dysfunction, more information about the patient’s overall level of health, and possibly underlying health conditions could be uncovered.

Sexuality is a key component of a woman’s physical and psychological health. About a third of young and middle-aged women and half of older women experience some sort of sexual problem including painful intercourse, lack of pleasure and low desire. It has been known for a long time that women with diabetes have increased sexual dysfunction over the women without diabetes. Women with diabetes are known to have an increased incidence of vaginal dryness, vaginal yeast infections, bladder infections and inability to have an orgasm. Like men, diminished blood flow and nerve damage account for the sexual dysfunction.

A book was published by the American Diabetes Association in 2007 by Janis Roszler and Donna Rice entitled Sex and Diabetes is highly recommended to get an in-depth summary of this topic. The authors are both active certified diabetes educators. They strongly suggest that patients need to be pro-active and bring up the subject of sexual health with their HCP even though the obstacles for doing so includes a medical environment that is usually rushed and not always private, embarrassment about the topic, and misconceptions about diabetes and its complications.

The good news for women with sexual problems is similar to the news for men. If a patient with diabetes and sexual dysfunction will talk with her physician or other HCP, the cause of the problem can be determined and usually overcome. It is known that if a diabetes patient keeps blood glucose levels close to normal, sexual problems will be greatly decreased. If vaginal dryness is a problem, then hormones can be evaluated and hormone replacement therapy prescribed, or vaginal lubricants purchased and used. If vaginal yeast infections are a problem, again, good management of blood glucose can help, in addition to proper hygiene and the prescription of antifungal treatments.

There are treatments for conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, depression and others that can also cause dysfunction. For both men and women, having a good method of communicating with a partner and being gentle, loving and caring will help greatly. Solutions to problems cannot be overcome unless the problems are identified, confronted and shared with your HCP and then treated. I highly recommend that you discuss sexuality with your HCP the next time you have an appointment and urge HCPs to invite their patients to talk about sex openly to help identify and treat issues of dysfunction.

About The Author
R. Keith Campbell RPh, FAADE, CDE is a leader in the field of diabetes, named the “Outstanding Health Care Educator in the Field of Diabetes in the U.S.” by the American Diabetes Association, having published more than 650 articles, serving on numerous boards (including the American Association of Diabetes Educators), and co-developing the popular CADD ambulatory infusion pump.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of DiabetesProductSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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