SUNDAY VISION-Sexual problems are almost part and parcel of diabetes. Sadly, many patients suffer in silence because they are afraid of discussing the issue with their doctors and partners.
Unknown to them, this is one issue that can be managed, so that one’s marriage or relationship does not have to suffer as a result. Dr. Edward Ddumba told Elizabeth Namazzi how diabetes affects sexual health and gave tips on how patients can cope.
Q Which gender is more affected by diabetes in Uganda?
A Women are relatively more affected by adult onset of diabetes mellitus than men.
Any specific reasons why women are more affected?
The reasons are not fully understood, but it may be related to reduced levels of physical activity and subsequent weight gain in women older than 35 years of age.
How does diabetes affect women’s sexual health?
Diabetes affects women’s sexual health in the following ways:
Reduced lubrication, which causes pain during sexual intercourse.
Fungal infections (candidiasis) contribute to the dryness of the vagina.
Reduced sensation in the genital organs.
Decreased desire for sex.
Increased time to reach orgasm.
Reduced pleasure from sex.
Reduced blood flow to the genital organs will adversely affect the local temperature.
General body fatigue.
Psychological effects of having a chronic illness.
Is it possible to avoid these effects?
These effects can be avoided or at least delayed by observing optimal blood sugar control through a healthy diet, regular exercise and anti-blood sugar medications as prescribed by the physician. Good personal hygiene is essential for sexual health.
What can diabetic women do to ensure that diabetes does not ruin their sex life and in the end their marriages and relationships?
The affected woman must:
Fully understand her condition and the anticipated complications.
Live positively despite her diabetic state.
Discuss her sexual problems openly with her partner.
Consult a physician for advice.
Optimise blood sugar control.
Avoid alcoholic beverages beyond what the physician will recommend.
Treat vaginal infections promptly — should they occur.
Maintain good sexual hygiene.
How can men help their diabetic spouses with this problem?
Men can help the women by acquiring knowledge about diabetes and by being understanding with what their partners are going through. It helps the affected couple to see the physician together in case of sexual problems.
Does diabetes affect men’s sexual health as well? How?
Diabetes affects men’s sexual health by causing erectile dysfunction. This condition occurs as a result of damage to the nerves and blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. In addition, there is a reduced level of nitric oxide, which is essential in making the penile blood vessels accommodate adequate blood for an effective erection to occur.
How can they ensure that diabetes does not ruin their sex life?
Men should openly discuss sexual issues with their partners. Like the women, men must also optimise blood sugar control as outlined above. There are now medications on the market that are effective in overcoming erectile dysfunction in diabetic men. These issues should be discussed with the personal/family physician.
How can wives help?
Wives help by being positive and by not ridiculing or humiliating their partners when they fail to perform. Solutions should be found together in a spirit of love and mutual respect.