Study: Diabetes Can Affect Menopausal Women's Sex Lives

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Menopause is linked to diminishing sex drive for some women. The most common culprit has been the drop in estrogen.  In The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause, Dr.  Holly Thacker wrote that this decline can cause several ripple effects. The first involves mood changes that can affect a woman’s interest in sex. The second is vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. But researchers are finding that a third issue – diabetes – may also be causing problems for menopausal women.

    A new study out of the University of California, San Francisco found that having diabetes can cause perimenopausal and menopausal women to be less satisfied with their sex lives, according to MedLinePlus, which is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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    Researchers surveyed approximately 2,300 women who were between the ages of 40 and 80. About six percent of the participants in the study had diabetes that had to be treated with insulin. Another 15 percent had diabetes but did not need to take insulin. The remainder of the study participants did not have diabetes.

    The researchers found that more than a third of participants who reported that they were on insulin treatment gave low ratings for their sexual satisfaction. Additionally, approximately 25 percent of women who were not taking insulin reported that they also were “moderately” or very” sexually dissatisfied. In comparison, less than 20 percent of participants who did not have diabetes reported being unsatisfied with their sex lives.

    Women who took insulin expressed more concerns about lubrication and orgasm than non-diabetic women. Additionally, diabetic women who had additional complications (such as heart disease and kidney disease) were less likely to have sex at least once a month as compared with other study participants.
    The researchers hypothesized that women with diabetes may have sexual problems due to either the overall burden of having a chronic disease or that they might be experiencing nerve damage caused by elevated blood sugar levels.

    And there are a lot of people who are affected. According to the American Diabetes Association, 10.9 million people who are 65 years old or above have been diagnosed with diabetes.  However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 13.7 percent of people between the ages of 45-64 and 26.9 percent of people 65 and older are projected to be living with diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.

    The chances are that if you’re diagnosed with this disease, you’ll end up with type 2 diabetes. The CDC notes that type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases in adults. This type of diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, a family history of the disease, an impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, a history of gestational diabetes, and race/ethnicity.

    The good news is that the Diabetes Prevention Program, a large prevention study of people who have a high risk for diabetes, found that lifestyle interventions that help people lose weight and increase physical activity actually reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent over a three-year period. Furthermore, the study found that adults who were 60 years old and above had a 71-percent reduction in the development of diabetes if they adopted these lifestyle changes.

  • The Cleveland Clinic recommends two ways to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes:

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    • Be aware of your eating patterns. The Clinic recommends eliminate 250 extra calories per day to help you lose a half-pound over the period of a week. In addition, don’t skip meals since this can lead to overeating at other meals or eating too many snacks.
    • Be active for 30 minutes a day. “Glucose gets taken into the body through muscles. Anytime you exercise, you help your muscles to more easily get the glucose out of the blood and into your body where it is used for energy,” the clinic website states. The activity can happen all at one time or in increments throughout the day. In addition, try to exercise at least five days a week.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    American Diabetes Association. (2011). Diabetes statistics.

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). 2011 national diabetes fact sheet.

    Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Pre-diabetes and lifestyle changes to prevent type 2 diabetes.

    Joelving, F. (2012). Women with diabetes may have more problems with sex. MedlinePlus.

    Thacker, H. L. (2009). The Cleveland Clinic guide to menopause. New York: Kaplan Publishing.

Published On: July 30, 2012