Human beings are sexual beings

The question of how a new diagnosis of diabetes will impact your sex life is a natural one. Diabetes will change your sex life, but surprisingly, it may be for the better. It can encourage you to take better care of your body and health, and also have you thinking about your body and sex life differently.

While a diagnosis of diabetes may be the last thing that you want to hear from your doctor, it may encourage you to make some positive changes to your health behaviors and sex life.

How your body reacts

Chances are, before your new diagnosis, you were noticing things were different due to the increased sugar in your blood.  You may have felt tired more often or had a decreased interest in engaging in sexual relations. Your ability to become sexually aroused or reach climax may have been impacted. It is common that if you did not feel well or were concerned that something was wrong, being sexual likely wasn't top of mind.

Elevated blood sugar not only impacts the eyes, kidneys, feet, and cardiovascular system, it impacts your sex organs as well. Chronic high blood sugar may prevent individuals from reaching and maintaining an erection or becoming aroused and lubricated. Much of sexual performance involves blood flow – and sticky viscous sugary blood does not flow very well.

Sex can support your physical and mental health

In addition, people with diabetes may also experience nerve damage. While you frequently hear about neuropathy when it comes to your feet, your sex organs need proper functioning nerves too!  Nerve stimulation is needed for genital stimulation, arousal, and climax for all people. I always say that keeping your blood sugars in a healthy range will put a skip in your step in more ways than one! But don’t despair because you feel that you are experiencing any of these changes. Take a deep breath, relax and talk about what is going on with your partner(s) and health care team. Remember, human beings are sexual beings! For many people, healthy sexual relations can support physical and mental health. That’s why it’s important to see sexual health as a valid and important topic of conversation for your overall well-being.

How to deal with the change

A diagnosis of diabetes brings new situations that may impact how you feel about yourself, your life, and your relationship with your partner(s). This is a great opportunity to seek peer support and a therapist with experience working with people with diabetes.  Lining up a therapist with experience in dealing with diabetes and sex will help you feel equipped to handle potential challenges that may arise later on.  That way you know them and they know you and you can easily reach out if you need help and prevent situations that potentially could become bigger if ignored.  The American Diabetes Association has a directory of mental health providers who have training in working with people with diabetes.  

Many people struggle to discuss issues around their sexuality and their sex life, which then has the potential to cause tension in casual or long-term relationships.  Having up-front conversations before you are in the throes of passion will not only help you deal with issues in a safe and supportive environment, but may actually bring you closer together. If your medical provider does not feel comfortable talking about your sexuality, consider finding a new provider or a sex therapist that provides you with a safe space to speak about these issues.

Intimacy, pleasure, emotional connections, and support are all part of a healthy relationship, especially for people diagnosed with diabetes!