A chronic medical condition not only can bring changes to the normalcy of your everyday life, but it can also bring significant changes to your love life. As in, diminishing a good thing you had going before your health declined.
One important aspect of your overall well-being is sexual satisfaction. We are all built and wired to want to have an enjoyable sexual experience but often when we are dealing with a chronic disease or condition, things are just not the same. But bringing up this personal and intimate side of ourselves to our doctor can be difficult. Discussing sexual problems can feel uncomfortable and unless a doctor asks "how is your sex life," the topic may never be brought up.
Chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or arthritis are common conditions that take a toll on intimate relationships. Common factors contributing to sexual issues tend to revolve around a loss of interest in sex by both a man or woman or pain during intercourse usually for a woman. But there are other elements affecting sex that may also be contributing to a loss of intimacy:
• Altered self-image
Depending on the chronic condition will determine how the illness changes the way you see yourself. Both sexes can be affected by this with women probably a little more so. Your physical appearance may be altered due to a major surgery, changes in skin and hair or weight gain caused by needed prescription medications. Physical changes affect sexuality and how you perceive yourself. If this is one area that is hurting your sex life, seek the advice of a therapist or support group to develop a more accepting attitude toward yourself.
If you are in a state of healing, having pain or dealing with side effects, this can be causing exhaustion or extreme fatigue making you in no mood for lovemaking. Try to discover when your energy levels are higher throughout the day and set aside time to be with your partner during those moments.
• Reduced communication
It can be very difficult to adapt to a new way of life when a chronic disease can change things. Communication between you and your partner is more critical than ever. Let them know what you are feeling without holding back. Explore being open and honest about everything including sex so that you both can work on what needs to be discussed in a healthy way.
Adapting your sex life to specific health conditions
The treatments for cancer can vary widely depending on what type of cancer it is. Chemotherapy and radiation performed on women can bring about drops in estrogen levels exacerbating the classic symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness and loss of tone and elasticity in pelvic floor tissues. Women should consider using lubricants like K-Y jelly or moisturizing gels to replace natural vaginal secretions for better ease of penetration.
Men may experience a reduction in libido and erectile dysfunction. There are a variety of prescription medications to treat ED and hormonal treatment may increase interest in sex again. If either a man or woman develops any of these issues, they need to bring it up to their doctors.
Both genders should also practice Kegel exercises to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
• Cardiovascular Disease
After having a heart attack or stroke, always discuss with your doctor when it is safe to resume sexual activity. It is important to complete a cardiac rehabilitation program where this will be discussed addressing this issue.
This chronic can bring about many changes for both sexes. Women are often more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections while menopausal symptoms are heightened increasing vaginal dryness, mood changes, fatigue, and hot flashes.
Men are at twice the risk of low testosterone resulting in a reduced sex drive. They also are more likely to have erectile dysfunction.
Both men and women with diabetes should be open and honest with their physician about their sexual function.
The pain and stiffness of arthritis does not bode well for setting the mood for romance. What can be done though are a few tricks to ease the discomfort - take pain medication about 30 minutes before sex to achieve pain relief; take a warm bath or shower, use a heating pad, or an electric blanket to reduce stiffness. Cushion your joints using pillows or blankets during sex.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.