Is Sexual Function Affected By Chronic Diseases?

Sexual dysfunctions and problems can be caused by chronic disease. This post tells you how and why this happens, so keep reading to find out more.

RELATED: More Sex Can Prevent Heart Attacks, According To Science

In this article:

  1. What Is Chronic Disease?
  2. What Are the Top Ten Chronic Diseases?
  3. What Causes Chronic Disease?
  4. How Can Chronic Illness Affect Sexual Function?
  5. How Can You Prevent Chronic Disease?
  6. What Do You Do When Chronic Disease Affects Your Sex Life?

Chronic Disease and Sex: Do They Go Together?

What Is Chronic Disease?

To better understand the impact of chronic disease on low libido or sexual dysfunction, let’s define the term first. What is a chronic disease?

A disease usually falls into two primary categories: chronic and acute. A disease is acute when it happens suddenly such as within hours or days.

The symptoms can become worse or severe quickly. Prompt intervention is necessary to save a life.

In contrast, chronic illness has the following characteristics:

  • It is an illness that can last for at least three months.
  • It can worsen or develop as the person ages.
  • The symptoms can progress gradually or slowly, depending on the risk factors.
  • It is not the easiest to cure, but it can be manageable or treatable.
  • Chronic diseases may not respond to vaccinations.

What Are the Top Ten Chronic Diseases?

No official study identifies the top ten chronic diseases in the country. Based on accumulated data, the following makes it to the chronic illness list:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart failure

What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? It is a progressive lung disease characterized by difficulty in breathing.

The prevalence of chronic conditions among Americans is so high an individual may experience at least one of them in their lifetime.

The first three chronic diseases on the list are also the leading causes of death and disability, according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). They are also some of the primary causes of high healthcare costs.

What Causes Chronic Disease?

Many factors contribute to the risk factors and causes of chronic diseases. These include:

Smoking, for example, is the primary risk factor for lung cancer, according to research. It is also responsible for the development of COPD and other respiratory diseases.

High cholesterol can raise the odds of hypertension and heart disease. The fatty deposits can accumulate in the walls of the blood vessels, especially the arteries.

As the vessels narrow, it forces the heart to pump harder and deliver a high amount of blood. In turn, the vital organ wears out fast and blood pressure rises.

Hormone imbalance may not cause chronic conditions directly, but it boosts the risk factors such as obesity. A good example is hypothyroidism, which is the sluggish activity of the thyroid glands.

In a 2016 journal analysis, low production of thyroid hormone also leads to a decline in thermogenesis or the body’s ability to produce heat.

Many chronic diseases can also share risk factors. It’s also possible that the development of one of them leads to another.

For example, the risks of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can increase if you have diabetes or hypertension. Both can destroy the hundreds of nerves and filters in the organs.

RELATED: How Regular Sex Can Strengthen A Relationship

How Can Chronic Illness Affect Sexual Function?

Some case studies in the Medical Journal of Australia provide an extensive list of the effects of chronic diseases on a person’s sex life. Some of the essential points include:

1. It Can Alter or Disrupt Sexual Drive or Libido

One study suggests an association between diabetes and erectile dysfunction (ED). This chronic illness may relax the smooth muscles of the penis or damage the blood vessels of the organ.

Changes in hormones can affect sex life as well. Medications can also have a similar effect.

The diuretics used in treating hypertension can reduce the blood flow going to the penis. It’s harder (no pun intended) to achieve or maintain an erection.

2. Chronic Diseases Can Affect Mental Health

Depression is one of the leading types of chronic diseases, and it’s also a risk factor for others. It is especially true in women dealing with hypothyroidism or people with cancer.

Depression may occur due to changes in brain activity or the levels of hormones produced. It may also be environmental.

This point implies that the idea or a diagnosis of chronic disease may make a person feel sad and less interested in their usual activities. That may include having sex.

3. People Feel the Stigma That Comes with Chronic Disease

Despite the prevalence of chronic conditions, many people still have wrong ideas about them. For instance, they believe individuals diagnosed with heart disease should no longer have sex.

In reality, a study suggests those who have regular sex may reduce the risks of a heart attack. Intimacy can help exercise the muscle.

These wrong ideas, though, can send negative signals to people with chronic diseases.

How Can You Prevent Chronic Disease?

Can a chronic disease be cured? Experts rarely associate the word “cure” with chronic disease for a good reason: it is complex.

The nature of illness can have many symptoms, and a person can have two or more chronic conditions at the same time. Even if they cure one, another may develop soon.

Fortunately, you can do many things to prevent, reduce, and treat chronic diseases:

  • Undergo a full checkup at least once a year. You may increase the frequency as you get older.
  • Take the right vitamins and minerals according to your age and needs.
  • Exercise or increase your physical activity.
  • Eat the right kinds of food. A 2012 study revealed that a plant-based diet can support the treatment of many chronic illnesses.
  • Know the medical history of your family. Some of these chronic conditions such as diabetes or breast cancer have a genetic link.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce your stress with meditation or yoga.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Work with teams like LIV Health who can design a customized wellness plan.
  • Take your medications consistently.

What Do You Do When Chronic Disease Affects Your Sex Life?

Sex is one of the critical measures of quality of life. When a chronic illness prevents you from doing it, it’s time to take action.

Here are a few tips:

  • Find a doctor who is compassionate and attentive to your concerns. Some usually don’t associate sexual dysfunction with chronic conditions.
  • Be open to your partner. Communication helps ease any brewing feeling of resentment or animosity.
  • Consider taking some supplements or therapies like hormone replacement.
  • Relax your body and mind before you have sex.
  • Understand the cause of sexual dysfunction as it may be beyond your chronic disease. A therapist or counselor can help you in this area.
  • Don’t be afraid to use aids such as lubricants or sex toys.
  • Discover new ways to be intimate or have fun with your partner.

Many of these chronic diseases are the leading causes of disability, and they can significantly impact your quality of life. They may even prevent you from enjoying sex.

The link between chronic illness and relationships may not be good all the time. Know, though, in many situations, your condition doesn’t end the ties that bind.

Rise above the fear and worry and get the help you need. You are not alone in your journey.

What other ways can you show your love to your partner despite an illness? Share your tips in the comments section below!

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