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Sexual Dysfunction prevalent in Women with Type 1 Diabetes

Results of the long-term findings from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)/ Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) found that women diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are more prone to developing problems in sexual function and satisfaction.

In this cohort study, Dr. Paul Enzlin of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven & University Hospitals Gasthuisberg in Leuven, Belgium, and colleagues considered diabetes as a major factor that triggers impaired sexual function. “Sexual functioning of women with diabetes, however, has received far less attention in research, and results are less conclusive than those of studies in men,” the researchers wrote. “In general, studies of sexual dysfunction in women have lagged behind those in men, likely due to several factors, including a lack of standardized definitions of sexual dysfunction in women, absence of well-validated scales, and societal taboos regarding female sexuality.”

The study aimed to determine the prevalence of and risk factors predicting sexual dysfunction in a well-characterized North American cohort of women with type 1 diabetes. At year 10 of the EDIC study, 652 female participants were asked to complete a validated self-report measure of sexual function and to undergo standardized history and physical examinations, laboratory evaluation, and assessment of mood.

The researchers concluded that 35 percent of the participants passed the criteria for female sexual dysfunction (FSD). The specific problems noted by women with FSD were loss of libido (57 percent); problems with orgasm (51 percent), lubrication (47 percent), and arousal (38 percent); and pain (21 percent). The univariate analysis also noted that age, marital status, menopausal status, microvasculopathy, and depression have a direct association with FSD. While the multivariate analysis noted that depression and marital status were the factors considered as the main predictors of FSD.

“FSD is common in women with type 1 diabetes and affects all aspects of sexual function and satisfaction,” the study authors concluded. “Depression is the major predictor of sexual dysfunction in women with type 1 diabetes. These findings suggest that women with type 1 diabetes should be routinely queried about the presence of sexual dysfunction and possible co-association with depression.”

However, the study authors noted that this study is only conclusive for white, relatively young women with type 1 diabetes. They also excluded sexually inactive women from the analyses and lack of a nondiabetic control group of women. “In contrast to findings in men, our results showed that in women with type 1 diabetes, depression and marital status are the main predictors of FSD, whereas glycemic control and complications were not associated with FSD,” the study authors said. “Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these differences. Considering that FSD can have an important negative effect on quality of life and partner relationships, the sexual difficulties of women with diabetes warrant more attention in both research and practice.”

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