Sex, Urinary, and Bladder Problems of Diabetes

Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes At A Glance

The nerve damage of diabetes may cause sexual or urologic problems.

  • Sexual problems for men with diabetes include
    • erectile dysfunction
    • retrograde ejaculation
  • Sexual problems for women with diabetes include
    • decreased vaginal lubrication and uncomfortable or painful intercourse
    • decreased or no sexual desire
    • decreased or absent sexual response
  • Urologic problems for men and women with diabetes include
    • bladder problems related to nerve damage, such as overactive bladder, poor control of sphincter muscles, and urine retention
    • urinary tract infections
  • Controlling diabetes through diet and exercise can help prevent sexual and urologic problems.
  • Treatment is available for sexual and urologic problems.

Hope through research

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) was established by Congress in 1950 as one of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIDDK conducts and supports research on diabetes, glucose metabolism, and related conditions. NIDDK-supported research on the sexual and urologic complications of diabetes includes research conducted as part of the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study. The EDIC is an observational follow-up study of people who originally participated in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). The DCCT showed that intensive blood glucose control can reduce the risk of complications of type 1 diabetes. EDIC study results suggest that tight glucose control can delay the onset of erectile dysfunction in men with type 1 diabetes.

A recent study focused on urinary incontinence in women at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes who participated in the NIDDK-sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The women had pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Women who were in the DPP group that used a lifestyle change approach to diabetes prevention and lost 5 to 7 percent of their weight through dietary changes and increased physical activity were compared with those in other DPP groups who received standard education and maintained a stable weight. The women in the lifestyle intervention group had fewer problems with urinary incontinence than women in the other groups. This finding adds to other results of the DPP study that indicate the value of lifestyle changes for preventing or delaying the development of type 2 diabetes.

Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research. For information about current studies, visit

SOURCE: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes.

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