Does Diabetes Affect Your Sex Life?

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

Your intimate relationships can suffer when you have diabetes. But it’s not inevitable.

Challenges to sexual performance remain a taboo subject for many people, even as our culture has become increasingly sex-obsessed. Consequently, you may be reluctant to discuss your concerns with a date, a partner, or even a healthcare provider.

Survey shows that intimacy problems are common

Those of us who have diabetes tend to accept, albeit reluctantly, that we have or may get the physical complications that can come with it. Yet we too often try to hide the emotional complications that can be equally devastating to satisfactory intimate relationships.

It’s way past the time when all of us need to face up to this reality. An unpublished 2016 survey, “The Diabetes and Relationship Connectivity Report,” provides guidance. This survey of 500 adults with diabetes can prove to each of us that we aren’t alone when we face the problems of intimacy. I obtained a copy of this survey from a representative of Accu-Chek Connect/Roche Diabetes Care, which commissioned it from Wakefield Research.

Six of the questions and the responses to them shed some light on issues that people with diabetes have in their relationships. They affect people who are dating as well as those who are in a relationship with a significant other.

When someone isn’t sure how empathetic their date will be about their medical condition, they may end up saying nothing. Consequently, 42 percent of people with diabetes who are not in a committed relationship have tried to hide some aspect of their diabetes from someone they were dating or considering dating. In fact, more than one-quarter said that they do this frequently.

When do you tell?

How soon is it too soon to tell someone you have diabetes? A first date is too soon for 41 percent of people with diabetes.

It is an even more serious story for those people in a relationship with a significant other. Diabetes has impacted the sex life of 55 percent of them. One-quarter of them said their sex drive was lower, and 21 percent say that they have sex less often because of their diabetes. While only 14 percent said they have erectile issues, the survey included both men and women and did not tabulate the sexes separately.

Talking about how diabetes has impacted your sex life can be an important step toward improving your relationship. Yet, 36 percent of respondents who said their sex life has been impacted by diabetes said that they had never talked with their partner about it.

Do you talk with your doctor?

The final question that the survey asked those people whose sex drive is lower due to diabetes was whether they had ever talked with a doctor about it. Here, 58 percent said that they have and 42 percent haven’t.

Sexual dysfunction is all too common, and it’s hardly limited to men. In fact, a national probability sample of 1,749 women and 1,410 men showed that 43 percent of the women and 31 percent of the men reported having it.

Yet, just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to giving up an active sex life. Even erectile dysfunction, perhaps the most devastating sexual dysfunction that anyone can have, is treatable at any age.

Talking with your partner or date may be a good first step toward improving your sex life, especially if you have problems caused by diabetes.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.