Content written by Sharon J Parish, MD

Sexual health problems such as decreased interest, slowness to arouse, decreased vaginal lubrication, orgasmic dysfunction, and sexual pain are reported more often in women with diabetes mellitus than in women without diabetes. If you are a woman with diabetes mellitus, researchers have found that psychological factors as well as diabetes-associated damage to nerves and blood vessels have been implicated as the causes of the sexual health problems.

Here are some of the published studies on the sexual health concerns of women with diabetes mellitus, although it is obvious that more research is needed. Enzlin and colleagues compared data concerning the sexual health problems of three groups of women: i) type-I diabetes mellitus without diabetic complications, ii) type-I diabetes mellitus with diabetic complications and iii) an age-matched healthy control group of women without diabetes mellitus. Compared to the healthy women without diabetes mellitus, those women with diabetes had significantly more (approaching twice as many) sexual health problems, significantly higher occurrence of decreased lubrication, and significantly more depressive symptoms. Among the women with diabetes mellitus, a significant association was found between the number of diabetic-related complications and the number of sexual health complaints; women with more diabetic-related complications also reported more sexual health problems. Erol and colleagues examined the sexual health concerns of women with type II diabetes mellitus. Compared to age-matched healthy controls without diabetes mellitus, women with diabetes had significantly lower sexual function scores on a validated questionnaire. The most common sexual health problems in the women with diabetes were reduced libido (almost 4 of 5), diminished clitoral sensation (almost 2 of 3) and increased vaginal dryness and discomfort (almost 2 of 5).

Salonia and colleagues examined women with diabetes mellitus and compared them to a healthy age-matched control group without diabetes mellitus. Compared to healthy women, those with diabetes mellitus had significantly lower sexual function scores in the areas of sexual desire, lubrication, and sexual orgasm and, in addition, had significantly higher sexual pain. Women with diabetes and depression had significantly less arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction compared to those diabetic women without depression. Older diabetic women had less sexual interest and less lubrication than younger diabetic women. Consistent with age being an important factor, Schiel and colleagues reported that the overall prevalence of sexual health problems was twice as common in women with type-II diabetes mellitus (who are much older) compared to women with type-I diabetes mellitus (who are younger).

If you are a woman with diabetes mellitus and also have sexual health problems that are causing personal distress, consultation with a sexual medicine physician is suggested.