How to Keep Diabetes from Disrupting Sex
Diabetes can be a "sex staller." Diabetic men often struggle to maintain erections, while diabetic women struggle with vaginal dryness and difficulty reaching orgasm. Since diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels—those structures are important for sexual function—it leads to bedroom consequences for many diabetics.
Your sex life doesn’t have to vanish, though, just because you have diabetes.
Giddy Urologist Dr. Edwin Morales shares some guidance about diabetes in the ED Guide video series. Click here to watch the video.
How diabetes affects sex
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can have inconvenient consequences for your sexual life. Diabetes can cause hypoglycemia, erectile dysfunction (ED) and vaginal dryness, all of which can disrupt sex.
Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar plummets, causing confusion, lightheadedness, shakiness, heart palpitations and anxiety. Blood sugar naturally drops after exercise, and sex can be considered exercise since you’re burning between 50 and 100 calories. This means that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have to prepare beforehand. If a person with diabetes isn’t monitoring their blood sugar, hypoglycemia symptoms could interrupt sex.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue for 35 percent to 75 percent of diabetic men. Additionally, men with diabetes tend to develop ED 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. Poorly managed blood sugar could lead to nerve damage and damage to blood cells, which, in turn, leads to difficulty maintaining an erection.
For some men, the best solution for diabetes-related erectile dysfunction is using a wearable product. A vacuum pump is one example. It pulls blood into the penis to create an erection and then uses a constriction band at the base of the penis to hold the blood in. On the downside, it can cause bruising or desensitize the head of the penis.
One of the newest wearable treatments on the market is Eddie®, an FDA-registered Class II medical device designed to treat erectile dysfunction and improve male sexual performance. In 2021 clinical trials, Eddie proved effective in treating men with physically, psychologically and pharmacologically induced ED. Designed to leave the arteries unencumbered while restricting the veins, Eddie is a safe treatment that does not have the negative side effects of prescription pills, nor does it require a prescription to obtain.
Vacuum pumps and constriction devices can be used in conjunction with one another for the desired result. Ask your doctor about mixing ED treatments.
For women, a common sex-related side effect of diabetes is vaginal dryness. Diabetic women are more likely to experience it compared to non-diabetic women, according to multiple studies. A combination of nerve damage, hormone swings and slowed blood flow can stop the vagina from naturally lubricating, which makes sex uncomfortable or even painful, and orgasms more difficult to achieve. In addition, diabetes can increase the risk of vaginal infection.
How to prevent diabetes-related disruptions
Despite the obstacles, diabetic men and women can enjoy a fulfilling sex life. Aside from the fun aspect, you’ll want to have sex because it improves your immune system, lowers blood pressure, lowers the risk of heart disease, improves sleep, decreases anxiety and acts as natural, immediate pain relief.
If you have diabetes, try three easy steps to improve your sex life without taking any additional medications:
Monitor your blood sugar
There’s a chance your blood sugar could drop rapidly during sex. If your blood sugar falls, sexual pleasure will be replaced quickly by any number of unpleasant hypoglycemic symptoms. To avoid hypoglycemia during sex, treat sex like you treat exercise. Before having sex, drink a glass of juice or eat a small, sugary snack. You can also add sugary snacks to your foreplay. A little sugar boost should keep any hypoglycemic symptoms at bay long enough to enjoy as much time as you’d like with your partner.
For all parties involved, lubricant during sex can be a huge aid. Lubricant allows a penis or sex toy to enter the vagina without causing discomfort. This keeps things moving smoothly for partners, and increases pleasure exponentially for women who suffer dryness.
Relax and enjoy
Anyone who has had an unpleasant sexual encounter because of diabetes may avoid sex or feel tense when planning to have sex. That stress in itself could cause some unpleasant symptoms. One of the best approaches diabetics can take in their sex lives is to relax. Try to put aside past experiences and instead focus on what you’re feeling in the moment.
If sexual frustrations from diabetes limit your sex life, don’t be afraid to approach doctors for help as they can prescribe helpful medications that could alleviate many diabetes-related symptoms. Make sure you communicate with your partner, too—they can’t read your mind, and they’ll want to help as you get your sex life back on track.