Diabetics Unsatisfied with Sex

Diabetic women on insulin treatment more likely to report low sexual satisfication

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having a disease can change many aspects of your life, including your sex life. With that in mind, researchers asked how diabetes might affect women's sex lives.

Women with diabetes were just as likely as those without diabetes to be interested in sex and to have sex.

However, women with diabetes were less likely to be satisfied with their sex life and sexual experiences.

"Control your diabetes to improve your quality of life."

Alison J. Huang, MD, MAS, of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Women's Health Clinical Research Center, and colleagues also found that women with diabetes being treated with insulin were more likely to have trouble with lubrication and orgasm.

"Diabetes is a recognized risk factor for erectile dysfunction in men, but there have been almost no data to indicate whether it also affects sexual function in women," said Dr. Huang.

Diabetes can affect women's health in a number of ways, including changes to vascular health (health of the vessels that carry blood), the researchers explained. These vascular changes can affect the tissues that lubricate a woman's genitals. The changes may also affect how she responds to arousal.

Certain diabetes drugs and treatments may have an impact on sexual function as well, they said.

Dr. Huang and her fellow researchers set out to study the relationship between diabetes and sexual function in a group of middle-aged and older women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Diabetic women being treated with insulin were more than twice as likely to report low sexual satisfaction, compared to women without diabetes.

The likelihood of reporting low sexual satisfaction was more than 40 percent higher among diabetic women not treated with insulin, compared to women without diabetes.

Both diabetic and non-diabetic women reported having a similar amount of sex and sexual desire.

Diabetic women treated with insulin were more than twice as likely to report troubles with lubrication. Insulin-treated women also were 80 percent more likely to have trouble reaching orgasm, compared to women without diabetes.

Lower sexual function among all women with diabetes was associated with a number of diabetes-related complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and problems with the nerves that carry information to and from the brain.

According to co-author Kelli Copeland, BA, of the UCSF Women's Health Clinical Research Center, this research suggests that doctors may want to think about screening diabetic women for sexual problems, especially if those women are taking insulin.

Copeland also said that doctors may need to advise women that preventing diabetes-related complications may help protect sexual function.

For their study, the researchers looked at data from the Reproductive Risks of Incontinence Study at Kaiser 2. A total of 2,270 women were involved in the study. While the researchers did not look at whether the women had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, they assumed most participants had type 2 diabetes based on age of diagnosis and when they started insulin treatment.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Dr. Huang received support from the National Institute in Aging and the American Federation for Aging Research.

The study was published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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Review Date: 
July 31, 2012
Last Updated:
March 20, 2013