Sex and diabetes- an awkward, but important topic.
For having such an overly sexualized culture, we are awfully shy when it comes to sex and our health. We all watch sex on TV and in movies, yet it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with our clinicians or even with our own partners.
Diabetes can affect our sexual health in many ways. First, physiologically. Neuropathy caused by chronically uncontrolled BGs does not just occur in our feet but can have a significant effect on our sex organs, as can decreased blood flow caused by the disease. Low libido can result from hormone imbalances. Men who have diabetes (specifically type 2) and are overweight are twice as likely to suffer from low testosterone, and women, from vaginal dryness.
Depending on the level of dysfunction, some see significant improvements with better BG control. Even if the neuropathy is not completely reversed, good BG control will prevent disease progression. Low testosterone can be treated with testosterone gels or injections, erectile dysfunction with PDE5-inhibitors, and vaginal dryness with lubrication or estrogen. Ultimately, if your sex life is not where you want it to be and you can have this conversation with your clinician, you’ve won half the battle. In your area there may be a physician who specializes in sexual dysfunction and they are typically very knowledgeable in these areas. Lastly, if emotional issues (such as depression) are contributing to the problem, a good clinical psychologist is in order.
Now what about dating with diabetes?
Diabetes can have a significant impact on sex and dating life. Telling someone you’re on a date with that you have diabetes can be a scary step, but an important one. I’ve found that the best thing to do is to just lay it all out there…confidently! Diabetes is so common nowadays and chances are, he/she has a good friend or family member with diabetes. Maybe it will even be a fun bonding experience.
When my fiancé first saw my pump he said, “Cool you have a pump! My cousin has a pump!”. As it turns out, his cousin has had diabetes most of his life and my fiancé knew all about it! My point is…you never know. Don’t underestimate someone and assume that they would judge something like your diabetes. Remember…there are so many more interesting things about you!
Getting naked with someone you’re dating can be awkward as well, especially if it’s the first time. I’d just like to point out that if someone is more worried about the fact that you have an insulin pump or a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) than the fact that you are naked then there is NOTHING wrong with you, but there is DEFINITELY something wrong with them. GET OUT while you still can! HAH!
In all seriousness, my best advice is to have an open conversation with your partner. Don’t try to hide things…it’s not worth it! Give them the benefit of the doubt, I mean…you are dating them and if you can’t give them the benefit of the doubt then why date them?
My last piece of advice is to be confident!
Confidence has been the key regarding my diabetes in all aspects of my life. I’ve found that hiding my pump or CGM only leads to suspicion and awkwardness. When I’m open with my diabetes and give people the chance to ask questions, they move on a lot more quickly. So be confident!