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What do sex and diabetes have to do with each other? Diabetes can cause sexual complications related to nerve damage. Men may experience erectile dysfunction or retrograde ejaculation. Women may experience decreased vaginal lubrication and decreased or absent sexual response. However, these problems are not a given -- many of these problems can be avoided by keeping blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels under control.

Diabetes and Sex: An Overview

Troublesome changes in sexual function are common health problems experienced as people age. Having diabetes can mean early onset and increased severity of these problems. Sexual complications of the condition are related to the nerve damage diabetes can cause. Men may have difficulty with erections or ejaculation. Women may have problems with sexual response and vaginal lubrication. By keeping your diabetes under control, you can lower your risk of sexual problems.

Sex and Diabetes: Understanding Nerves

When you want to lift your arm or take a step, your brain sends nerve signals to the appropriate muscles. Internal organs like the heart and bladder are also controlled by nerve signals, but you do not have the same kind of conscious control over them as you do over your arms and legs.
The nerves that control your internal organs are called autonomic nerves, and they signal your body to digest food and circulate blood without you having to think about it. Your body's response to sexual stimuli is also involuntary, governed by autonomic nerve signals that increase blood flow to the genitals and cause smooth muscle tissue to relax. Damage to these autonomic nerves is what can hinder normal function.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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