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11 Tips for a Healthy Sex Life If You Have Diabetes

Diabetes can affect your whole body (including your sex life). Here's what you need to know to stay healthy and intimate.

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Check your blood sugar before making love

Sex can act like insulin, lowering your blood sugar, so it’s a good idea to check your levels before things get frisky. If your blood sugar is at the normal level or on the low side, you may need to adjust your insulin or eat something small before or after sex to avoid making yourself hypoglycemic. If you have an insulin pump, consider unhooking it during sex. Here are some good snacks to eat with diabetes.

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Be careful making love after a drink

Alcohol and vigorous sex both lower blood sugar, so combining the two could cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar. If you’ve had a glass of wine, be extra sure to monitor your blood glucose before slipping between the sheets. Here’s what else you need to know about alcohol and blood sugar.

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Be especially touchy-feely if one of you has nerve damage

It’s rare, but in some cases nerve damage reduces sensitivity in the genitals in people who have diabetes. You can compensate for this with additional gentle touching in the right places, or try a vibrator.

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Don’t shy away from lube

Vaginal dryness is common among women who have diabetes. A simple fix is to keep water-based lubricants in the drawer of your nightstand. Avoid oil-based lubes, such as petroleum jelly, because they can damage condoms and lead to bacterial infection.

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Exercise to increase your libido

Here’s even more motivation to get your daily dose of exercise: it can boost your sex drive. Exercise improves blood flow, which will improve the function and sensitivity of genitalia. Both men and women with diminished sex dive will benefit from routine exercise, experts say. And check out these other reasons exercise is so darn healthy for diabetes.

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Report any below-the-belt issues to your doctor

Pay attention to what’s going on down there. High blood sugar compromises the body’s ability to fend off bacterial invasion, which may result in issues like a urinary tract infection. If you feel pain during sex (especially for women), have cloudy or blood urine, experience a burning sensation when you urinate, or constantly feel the need to go, talk to your doctor and refrain from sex until the problem is solved. It’s also a good idea to urinate before and after sex (within 30 minutes); this can help prevent bladder infections. Check out these natural remedies to prevent UTIs.

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Consider treating impotence naturally

If you have trouble getting an erection, a common issue for men with diabetes, prescription medication isn’t your only option. Consider taking ginkgo biloba, an herbal supplement that boosts blood flow; but be sure to check with your doctor first, because this supplement can interact with other medications.

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Guard against yeast infections

Women who have diabetes are more susceptible to vaginal infections; higher glucose levels in the vaginal lining, combined with moisture and warmth, encourages the growth of bacteria and yeast. (Here are other surprising diabetes complications you should know about). Older women are affected even more because levels of protective estrogen drop around menopause. Keep your blood sugar levels under control, bathe regularly, keep the vaginal area dry, avoid clothing that will hold moisture against you, and avoid harsh feminine product that invite infection, such as douches and strong soaps.

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Don’t be embarrassed to mention erection problems to your doctor

Impotence is sometimes an issue for men with diabetes and can be caused by a wide range of factors, which is why it’s important to discuss the problem with your doctor. Nerve damage and blood flow issues are common in people with diabetes and can affect your ability to get an erection, as can blood pressure medications taken by many diabetes patients. Between 50 percent and 60 percent of men over age 50 who have diabetes have erection problems, so your doctor won’t be surprised to hear about your condition.

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Figure out why your libido is flagging

If you experience reduced sex drive at all times and in all situations, talk to your doctor about possible medical reasons; medications you’re taking or hormone problems could be the culprit. But if your ability to get in the mood depends on the situation, psychological counseling could help pinpoint the issue.

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Trade massages

If you’re not in the mood for sex but still want to be intimate, try trading massages. The relaxation may help reduce stress hormone levels, which can drive up blood sugar. This kind of touching is a nice way to connect with your spouse and show you care (and who knows where it may lead).

Originally Published in Reader's Digest