Chronic Medical Illness and Sexual Function

Michael Krychman MD

As we age both men and women suffer from chronic medical conditions which can impact the sexual response cycle causing vaginal dryness and changes in desire. The effects of chronic illness on sexuality are often complicated and multifactorial. These effects may be direct where the disease process affects the underlying architecture of the sexual response.

Indirect effects on female sexuality happen when medical intervention itself causes signs, symptoms, or side effects that influence responsivity such as changes in self­esteem, changes in mood, reduced energy. Known as iatrogenic causes, they result from treatment of the underlying disease by therapy, surgery, or medication.

Common medical conditions that may cause vaginal dryness and may impact sexual function include:

Anemia
Anxiety
Autoimmune Disorders Cancer
Depression
Diabetes
Epilepsy
Hypertension
Hypo or Hyper Thyroid
Multiple Sclerosis
Parkinson’s Disease
Rheumatoid Arthritis
SICCA Syndrome
Sjogren’s Syndrome Stroke

If you think that your sexuality has been impacted by an underlying medical condition, here are some helpful hints.

Make an appointment with a health care professional to ensure your disease is optimally managed.

If medications are the culprit consider a medication change to one less sexually offensive. Careful here, be sure to discuss this first with your healthcare professional.

Above all, do not remain silent. Sexuality specialists can often address your concerns.

Focus on general health. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction can always help enhance general health and overall sexual enjoyment.

Try simple solutions. Tackle sexual boredom with some fun accessories. Use silicone lube to prolong sexual arousal and decrease vaginal dryness.

Maintain communication with your partner and discuss your concerns. Do not let yourself feel alone and isolated.