Why Kidney Disease Hampers Sex Life
Kidney disease invariably affects people’s sex lives and 50 per cent of these patients have sexual problems. The often un-asked questions in the minds of patients with kidney disease is: Can I do it? Should I do it? These questions are valid because patients with kidney disease often have high levels of kidney toxins in the blood which lower the levels of sex hormones like testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone.
Sexual Problems Faced By Men
- Impotence (difficulty in achieving and maintaining an erection)
- Difficulty in ejaculation
- Fatigued and too tired for sex
Sexual Problems Faced By Women
- Difficulty in getting sexually aroused
- Difficulty in reaching an orgasm
- Pain during sex
- Low chances of getting pregnant and high risk of miscarriages
Sexual Problems Faced By Both Genders
- Low sex drive (decreased interest in sex)
- Feeling of inadequacy
- Concerns about body image
Why Is There A Problem?
Along with a decrease in sex hormones, patients with kidney disease are anaemic, which causes weakness and fatigue and thus impairs sexual performance. Most of them have diabetes and/or high blood pressure which affect kidney blood flow and cause impotence. Medications used for kidney disease can also cause sexual problems.
Psychologically, patients suffer from depression, anxiety. fear of rejection or tailed performance. grief and guilt. This prevents them from achieving a fulfilling sex life. To make matters worse, most are hesitant to talk about these problems with their partners or their doctors.
What Can Be Done?
This problem can be approached non- medically or medically and often both means are used.
Patients are encouraged to discuss their problems with their partner or medical care giver. They are urged to understand their kidney disease and its treatment. Counselling sessions are done for both patient and partner. Communication and stress reduction activities are taught. Relaxation exercises are also taught. Regular physical activity and exercise is advised. Sex therapy by a qualified psychologist is sometimes required and a positive attitude on the part of the patient is emphasised.
Removal of kidney toxins by adequate dialysis is crucial. Anaemia should be corrected. Medications that can interfere with sexual function should be modified. Depression is treated by counselling and medications if needed. Women may need oestrogen or progesterone supplements and men may need testosterone. Viagra can be used by men, provided they do not have any cardiac disease.
These methods are most effective when they are applied by a multi disciplinary team involving a physician, psychologist, nurse, medical social worker, physiotherapist and dietician. To summarise, patients with kidney disease can have sexual problems due to a variety of reasons, but these are all treatable. Kidney disease should never come in the way of being sexually active, because sex is an important aspect of lite.