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Assessment of sexual difficulties in people with diabetes

Sexual difficulties can be a common problem for people with diabetes.

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Men with diabetes have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction likely due to the increased blood sugar damaging  blood vessels and nerves in and surround the penis. As these blood vessels get damaged, the likelihood of erectile dysfunction increases. Poorly controlled diabetes is likely to damage these blood vessels more rapidly.  Other medical and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking or cardiovascular risk factors can also damage these blood vessels contributing to erectile dysfunction.

For women with diabetes, a decrease in vaginal lubrication is the most common issue. This is again likely due to similar damage in nerves and blood vessels.

Untreated these issues can impact significantly on a person’s quality of life and create relationship issues. Due to psychological factors involved in sexual function, delaying treatment may also increase the severity or make it less amenable to treatment in the future.

Assessment

Allied health professionals, including dieticians and diabetes educators, can play an important role in assisting people with diabetes by helping to identify the problem and encouraging them to seek assistance from the doctor.

For this purpose, we have released a questionnaire on sexual functioning that can be given to people with diabetes.

For the men’s questionnaire scores of between 1 and  21 indicate a degree of erectile dysfunction. Men with these scores should be encouraged to take the questionnaire to their GP or to see a men’s health specialist to discuss treatment options.

For the women’s questionnaire scores of between 1 and 11 indicate a problem in vaginal lubrication. Women with these scores should be encouraged to take their questionnaire to their GP or to see a women’s health specialist to discuss treatment options.