Diabetes is well known to have an affect on the nerve endings in our body as well as the blood vessels. Most times, we think of these complications targeting our feet as in neuropathy, our eyes as in retinopathy or in our kidneys as nephropathy. It is documented that people with diabetes also can experience urological and sexual complications. Autonomic nerves, which regulate internal organs, can be damaged due to an excess of blood sugar. Eventually, this can increase risk and cause dysfunction to multiple organs involved in our sexual response.
Some of the risk factors which can increase sexual and urological problems include:
- Age-over 40
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Uncontrolled glucose levels
- Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol
- Poor communication/low self esteem/fear of sexual failure
- Lack of testosterone
Different issues concern men and women, but both sexes can be affected and cause inability to engage in sexual activity. The most common issues for men include:
- E.D. (Erectile dysfunction) – It is 2-3 times more prevalent in men with diabetes. It is an inability to have or hold an erection. Treatment options include certain oral medications such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. Other options could include suppositories inserted into the penis, vacuum devices or penile implants. Check with your physician to know which is best for you.
- Retrograde Ejaculation – this is a problem that allows the semen to enter the bladder instead of going out the tip of the penis. It is caused by a sphincter problem; it is more common with men who have diabetes. There are oral medications which will strengthen the sphincters to help this condition.
- Bladder conditions – nerves that are damaged can cause overactive bladders or urine retention. Treatment for this situation can include inserting a catheter as specific times to retrain the bladder or urinating at specific times. Oral medications as well as surgery may be another option; check with your physician.
The more common complaints for women with diabetes and their sexual health include:
- Decreased lubrication or pain during intercourse – this can be helped by over the counter lubricants or prescription lubricants. Other options include prescription hormone suppositories. You should consider other ways to share intimacy until this is resolved.
- Decreased desire and lack of sexual response – counseling either alone or as a couple may be very helpful. Kegel exercises or exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can have a positive affect on the sexual response.
- Yeast infections – Yeast loves sugar and multiplies when the blood sugar is out of control. Symptoms include burning, itching and discharge. Having blood sugar control and eating yogurt such as Greek yogurt can help. When you have an infection talk to your physician about treatment such as Monistat suppositories.
- Urinary tract infections – People with diabetes tend to get more infections including U.T.I.s. Symptoms can include pain, urgency, and frequency. Blood in the urine with fever, nausea, chills and back pain can occur, but more likely is a kidney infection. Antibiotics are necessary for these conditions along with anti-spasmodic medication to help bladder spasms.