We can probably all agree that smoking is known as an unhealthy habit with a high potential to cause damage to the human body. The human body is a complex system. Let’s have a look at how smoking, diabetes, and sexual health concerns are impacted by each other: 

Smoking and diabetes 

Smoking cigarettes – whether regularly or socially – increases the risk of developing diabetes type 2 by 30-40 per cent. The more one smokes, the higher the risk. 

Nicotine changes human cells so they cannot respond to insulin anymore. Arising thereby, the blood sugar levels increase. If the blood sugar levels are high for a long period of time, there is a high risk of damage to the blood vessels and the heart eventually. 

A higher dose of insulin is required to treat diabetes if the individual smokes, and the complications can worsen due to nicotine intake. 

Diabetes and sexual health concerns 

Diabetes as a chronic metabolic disorder affects different organs and has many complications. One of these is sexual dysfunction – in both men and women. In fact, the most common complications of diabetes in men are erectile dysfunction, also known as “impotence”, and ejaculation problems. 

For women, diabetes can cause vaginal dryness which leads to discomfort during sex. In addition, also women may experience difficulties climaxing and lose their desire to have sexual intercourse. 

Sexual health concerns and smoking

As mentioned above, nicotine can lead to damage to the blood vessels and thereby affect the blood flow in the body which can lead to an insufficient blood supply to the sexual organs, resulting in erectile dysfunction and impotence. 

In both men and women, nicotine intake can lower sex hormone levels and lead to a lower sexual desire, thereby. The result is lower sexual performance. 

Smoking increases fertility problems significantly, it can damage sperm DNA which can lead to miscarriages and birth defects. 

There is a high chance of having earlier menopause when smoking. Females can struggle to become pregnant due to smoking cigarettes. If a smoking woman becomes pregnant, there is a higher risk of early delivery and even stillbirth as well as damage to the embryo in development. 

Breaking the vicious cycle

We can understand now how smoking, diabetes and sexual health concerns/sexual dysfunction are related – it is indeed a vicious cycle. To break the cycle, different steps are advised: 

Individuals with diabetes should consult their doctor and ensure their condition and cholesterol levels are taken care of properly. A thorough physical examination is required in combination with medication and a healthy diet including vitamins and supplements. 

The most important step, we guessed it whilst reading through the above, is to quit smoking. Easier said than done: A first step can be replacing nicotine with patches, gums and lozenges. Once you manage to quit smoking, insulin can be taken on by the cells better which reduces blood sugar levels. The risk of sexual health concerns decreases and previous symptoms can disappear over time. 

Many different factors can contribute to breaking the cycle further once you quit smoking, such as healthy eating, physical exercise as well as therapy/counselling to manage stress better and find new coping strategies. 

Individuals with diabetes can live an enjoyable life including fulfilling sex. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with the Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.