The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Continued)
Women Have Issues Too
Women with diabetes can also experience sexual challenges that affect a couple's sexual enjoyment.
1. Do you experience lubrication problems during sexual activity?
2. Do you have a decreased interest in sexual activity?
3. Are you having difficulty achieving orgasm?
4. Do you have pain during intercourse?
5. Do you have a loss of sensation in the vaginal area?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have sexual difficulties related to your diabetes. Lubrication problems can cause discomfort during intercourse. A decrease in sexual interest or reduced ability to achieve orgasm will make intimacy far less enjoyable. Pain during intimate activity may be caused by a variety of problems including urinary tract infection or yeast infection, both common in women with diabetes. A loss of sensation may also be related. As with ED, good diabetes control can improve these problems or help them altogether. Share your concerns with your partner and health professional.
Lubrication and Arousal Problems
The body depends on its nervous and circulatory system to initiate vaginal lubrication. High blood glucose levels can, over an extended period of time, lead to nerve damage that not only reduces these secretions but also lowers sensitivity. Without adequate lubrication, irritation and pain may occur during sexual activity and make intimacy extremely unpleasant.
Water-based, water-soluble vaginal lubricants, such as K-Y jelly and Astroglide, are available at local pharmacies. They help encourage sexual arousal and increase comfort during intercourse. Hand creams, body lotions and petroleum-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, can cause further irritation and should be avoided.
An orgasm is one of the many pleasurable physical responses that a woman has during sexual activity. Al lack of desire, vaginal dryness, nerve damage, and abnormal blood glucose levels all interfere with a woman's ability to achieve an orgasm. This problem can be frustrating for a couple. Fortunately, you can improve this situation.
1. Normalize your blood sugar levels before becoming intimate. Some woman report that they can't achieve orgasm when their blood glucose levels are poorly controlled. Aim to maintain your A1C level within a healthy range (below 6.5 – 7.0 percent).
2. Use a lubricant. Vaginal lubricants safely add moisture to the genital area as mentioned above. Introduce lubricants into your bedroom activities. They can enhance your time together without being a reminder of any sexual problem.
3. Focus on your body. Do you feel unattractive? If you are unhappy with your weight, create a weight-loss plan with the help of a registered dietician. If you feel depressed or uncomfortable about sex, see a mental health professional who can help you work through those feelings.
4. Reduce stress. If your relationship is stressful, try to talk out your problems. If necessary, meet with a counselor who can help you get your romantic life back on track. Do some form of physical activity each day, have a massage, listen to soothing music, read a book, or take a leisurely walk. Don't underestimate the relaxing power of these types of activities.
Yeast and urinary tract infections often develop in women with diabetes and cause a couple's intimate life to be put on hold.
Vaginal yeast infections develop when the normal balance of vaginal organisms changes and encourages an overgrowth of yeast cells. This happens for a variety of reasons, including diabetes. Common symptoms are:
Irritated skin in the genital area
A white vaginal discharge with an odorless cottage cheese-like appearance
Burning or pain in the genital area during sexual intercourse
Discomfort in the genital area while urinating
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are rarely serious but need to be treated promptly. The urinary tract includes several organs that perform different functions. The kidneys produce urine, the bladder stores it, the ureters transport it from the kidneys to the bladder, and the urethra carries the urine from the bladder to outside of the body. Most infections affect the bladder or the kidneys. Symptoms of UTI include:
Pain or burning when urinating
A frequent urge to urinate small amounts
A tender or heavy feeling in the lower abdomen
Cloudy or unpleasant-smelling urine
Pain on one side of your back beneath the rib cage
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dLife's Sex & Intimacy Content is contributed & moderated by
Janis Roszler MSFT, RD, CDE, LDN
Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year. She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).
Donna Rice MSW, BSN, RN, CDE
Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness. She is the co-author of Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita). Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).