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How diabetes affected my relationship with my wife in our 70s

"My wife and I have had a happy married life despite problems with diabetes.

We didn’t have full sex before marriage, but were married when she was 26 and I was 28. After two years we decided to start our family and dropped the barrier precautions.

Surprisingly it took six happy months of carefree loving before baby No.1 was found to be on the way. A boy, now in his 40s with a family of his own.

Just over a year later we decided to start  trying for No.2 and that took only one shot so surprise again!

We didn’t even start to think about a third because No.1, at four-years-old, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and we felt that that plus general concern for the planet should be the limit for our family so I went onto using condoms for the first time.

The combination of condoms which did not fit and having been circumcised at birth I found pretty inhibiting, so my wife nobly volunteered to have  laproscopic sterilisation,(fearing that a vasectomy might inhibit me as much as the condoms).

After that we enjoyed a very relaxed relationship with no pregnancy worries as the children grew up.  No.2 became Type 1 diabetic in teenage, but had a much easier time than No.1 because, by then we parents had learned all about Type 1, pens had been invented and the hospital diabetic clinic had been much better organised.

As we grew older and I reached 45 I started to show some cardiac symptoms requiring medication - digoxin at first for AF and later, warfarin anticoagulant. At about this time occasions began to arise when I didn’t orgasm, or didn’t maintain my erection right through intercourse and nobody orgasmed.

At first this was infrequent and not a worry but, by the time I reached 67 I too was diagnosed with (late onset) Type 1 diabetes and assigned a diabetic specialist nurse. Following best practice, she duly cross examined me about glycemic and lipid control and then asked if my sex life had been affected. When I confessed my increasing problems she referred me to another diabetes specialist nurse who specialised in erectile dysfunction (ED) and related problems.

She suggested four alternatives, vibration, hypobaric erection, PDE-5 inhibitors and alprostadil. I chose PDE-5 at first but quickly found any improvement was unreliable and short-lived right up to the maximum dose. I asked to try alprostadil. This comes as “Caverject” or “MUSE”. MUSE pellets you simply pop into the hole at the end of your penis using a short tube.

To use Caverject you have to summon up your courage and stick an injection needle right into the side of you penis, cavernosal injection (c.i.) but for anybody who is doing several insulin injections every day, this involves much less trauma than it might do for any other ED sufferer and, at least in my case, it was spectacularly effective.

Indeed the main problem with alprostadil c.i. is avoiding overdose which could leave you hard for too long. Anything over four hours could jeopardise your future in that department. After a shot or two with Caverject,  I started to assess the situation.

Yes, it was effective, but on the NHS ‘SLS’ prescription basis you are only allowed about one or two per month and they cost around £20 to buy privately, so if partner decides she 'has a headache' or whatever, it’s pretty disappointing." 

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