Sexual problems are common in people with diabetes, but effective treatment is available

Diabetes may make your sex life more challenging, but you needn't give up on it. A study published in 2010 in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, showed that more than 60 percent of partnered people ages 57 to 85 who had diabetes were sexually active - and most of them had sex two to three times a month. But sexual problems are common. Men with diabetes are more likely than those without to have erectile dysfunction, and both men and women with diabetes are less likely to achieve orgasm.

Fortunately, help is available. Options include over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, medical devices and surgery. Proper glucose control, however, is your best means of preventing diabetes-related sexual problems.

Why the problem?

Diabetes affects sexual function by damaging nerves and small blood vessels. This damage reduces blood flow to your genitals and decreases sensation. Other factors that may affect sexual function and satisfaction include:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Poor self-image
  • Some medications, including some used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Individuals who are older, who have had diabetes for many years and who have additional health problems are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction.

Doctor's Viewpoint

Rita Rastogi Kalyani, M.D., M.H.S. Assistant Professor of Medicine Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Sexual problems in diabetes are often associated with other complications, such as diabetic nerve damage, cardiovascular disease and hormonal dysfunction. For most patients, not only can seeking treatment improve your quality of life, it can also facilitate treatment of other diabetes-related complications that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 06 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015