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Diabetes and sex

Sex can be a vital part of people’s lives. But it's one of those things we don’t like talking about.

So let’s talk about sex. How might diabetes affect your sex life?

Having diabetes doesn’t mean your sex life will be affected. But if it is, it may be just temporary and there's information available to help.

Your feelings about sex

Lots of things can affect our desire to have sex (our sex drive). And if your sex drive has changed it's not necessarily down to your diabetes. It could be due to medication or any treatment you’ve had in the past.

How you’re feeling can have a big impact too.

You may feel embarrassed if you use an insulin pump, so you may not feel like having sex.

You may just feel tired, or a bit down which can all play a part.

But there is support and talking to someone about what’s going on can be the first step.

Know that you’re not alone. Whether it’s with a partner, friend or your healthcare team – it’s good to talk. 

The impact of diabetes on relationships

Diabetes can sometimes put a strain on your close relationships, so try talking about any sexual issues you have with your partner and sorting them out together.

If you’re not sure where to begin, try relationship counsellors at Relate or a specialist adviser on the Diabetes UK helpline. 

Here are some questions we get asked:

Will sex affect my blood sugar levels?

Like any physical activity, sex can make your sugar levels drop, especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol. This can lead to hypoglycaemia or a 'hypo'.

If you normally check your blood sugar levels, check them before you have sex. You should also have a sugary snack or drink nearby, so you can quickly treat a hypo if needed.

Some people with diabetes feel nervous about having hypos, called "hypo anxiety".

Read our page on anxiety and get advice on what can help.

What about my insulin pump?

If you use an insulin pump, you might have all kinds of questions about how it might affect your sex life. Will it get in the way? Get pulled out? How do you explain what it is to a new partner?

Taking your pump off will mean it doesn’t get in the way and you’re less likely to have a hypo. But remember to put it back on again. Leaving it on means your sugars aren’t going to get too high, but on the other hand they might drop too low. 

Diabetes can be a balancing act – try things out and see what works for you. You can also talk to your GP or healthcare team.

But I've heard that diabetes can cause sexual problems?

Many people have some sexual problems at some point in their lives, whether they have diabetes or not. Having diabetes doesn’t mean your sex life will be affected.

But having high sugar levels for a long period of time can damage the blood vessels and nerves that supply your sexual organs. This may mean you don’t get aroused as easily.

Having diabetes can also mean you’re more at risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and thrush.

You should know how to reduce your risk of developing these conditions and how to manage them.

Your essential diabetes checks

You’re not alone. If you're worried or need advice or someone to listen to you, there’s lots of great support in North West London. We are always here to support you, and you can also talk to your healthcare team.

Getting support and time to discuss any sexual problems is one of your essential diabetes checks meaning you have a right to this kind of service and it’s free.

Visit the Diabetes UK forum talk about sex and diabetes with others