Diabetes impairs women’s sex life

Women with diabetes are less likely to find sex satisfying than those without the condition, despite having similar levels of interest and engagement in sexual activity, show study findings.

Diabetic women reported lower levels of overall sexual satisfaction than nondiabetic women, as well as more problems with lubrication and orgasm, particularly if they were taking insulin, report Alison Huang (University of California San Francisco, USA) and team.

"These findings suggest that although many diabetic women are interested and engaged in sexual activity, diabetes is associated with a markedly decreased sexual quality of life in women either through complications of the disease itself or through use of treatments," says the team.

In the analysis, which included an ethnically diverse population of 2270 women, aged 40-80 years, the team found that 486 (21.4%) of the women had diabetes, with 139 (6.1%) being treated with insulin.

As reported in Obstetrics and Gynecology, significantly greater proportions of insulin-treated and noninsulin-treated diabetic women reported low overall sexual satisfaction than did those without diabetes (as assessed by the Female Sexual Function Index), at 34.9% and 26.0% versus 19.3%.

Multivariate analysis showed that the likelihood of reporting low overall sexual satisfaction was more than two times higher in insulin-treated women and over 40% higher in noninsulin treated women than in those without the condition.

Furthermore, among sexually active participants, those on insulin were more than twice as likely to report difficulty with lubricating and 80% more likely to report difficulty achieving orgasm compared with nondiabetic women.

However, no significant differences in sexual desire or frequency of sexual activity by diabetes status were observed.

The researchers also report that diabetic women were significantly more likely to report less-than-monthly sexual activity if they had heart disease, renal dysfunction, or peripheral neuropathy.

"Diabetes and its complications appear to have a much greater effect on sexual problems such as lubrication and orgasm as opposed to sexual desire or subjective arousal," write Huang et al.

"Clinicians may want to consider actively assessing for sexual problems in diabetic women, particularly those taking insulin, and counsel diabetic women that prevention of end-organ complications may be important in preserving sexual function," they conclude.

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Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally first developed an interest in medical communications when she took on the role of Journal Development Editor for BioMed Central (BMC), after having graduated with a degree in biomedical science from Greenwich University.

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