Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes
Sexual and urologic problems happen to most people as they age. Those with diabetes often see earlier or more complicated sexual or urologic problems because diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves. Keeping diabetes under control, including blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure under control can help ward off these problems.
Male Sexual Problems
Erectile dysfunction is two to three times more prevalent in men with diabetes than those without. Research also suggests that men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction issues 10-15 years earlier than men without.
Some men with diabetes experience retrograde ejaculation, a condition in which the semen travels back into the bladder instead of outside the penis during ejaculation. Diabetes contributes to retrograde ejaculation because of poor blood glucose levels and resulting nerve damage. This can affect fertility.
Nerve damage, reduced blood flow to the genitals, and hormonal changes contribute to sexual problems in women with diabetes. These typically include vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, low or no sex drive, and inability to orgasm.
Male and Female Urologic Problems
In addition to sexual dysfunction, diabetes often contributes to urologic problems. The most common is bladder issues – over half of men and women with diabetes experience bladder problems. They can include overactive bladder (frequent urination or the feeling of the urgent need to urinate), poor control of the bladder, and urine retention (inability to realize when your bladder is full). Bladder problems are difficult to control and disruptive to everyday life.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are also common in those with diabetes. UTIs occur when bacteria reaches the urinary tract. Symptoms include frequent urge to urinate, pain during urination, cloudy or red urine, pressure above the pubic bone (women) and a feeling of fullness in the rectum (men).
Decreasing the Risk of Problems
Though those with diabetes are at higher risk for sexual and urological problems, there are several things diabetics can do to control and prevent these problems. They include controlling your blood glucose levels, your blood cholesterol, and your blood pressure. Those who smoke should cut back or quit. Exercising and controlling your weight will also lower your risk of developing sexual and urological problems.
If you have diabetes and are living with sexual or urologic problems, talk to a doctor. There are often medications, certain at-home activities or remedies, or in some cases surgery that can minimize or relieve your problems.