For kidney month, we’re going to take a look at the relationship between your kidneys and your sex life. Suspecting issues with your kidneys might not be the first thing you do when you hear about low libido. But the kidneys can affect sex since kidney disease can cause a low sex drive, among many other things.
Kidney disease can often be silent in that you can lose 90% of your kidney function without really experiencing any symptoms. Yet if you have a decreasing love life, maybe it’s time to start questioning if your kidneys are responsible.
Other symptoms of kidney disease include a weakening of your bones, inability to concentrate, swelling in arms or legs, impaired heart function and damage to blood vessels. These symptoms are similar to everyday aches and pains, and may overlap those of other illnesses. This could be one reason why so many people walk around with kidney disease without knowing it.
So…Kidneys and your sex life. How does it affect it?
Kidney disease causes chemical changes in your body which, among other things, affect your hormones. Hormones play a major role in your ability to feel sexual desire. The kidneys are part of the endocrine system. The adrenal glands at the top of your kidneys produce hormones, and so if these hormones become out of balance then you will have a lower libido.
Another factor is fatigue. Kidney disease causes fatigue since low levels of fluid and waste stay in the body, making you feel sluggish and tired. Often a dietitian can be helpful, advising you to limit the amount of waste you build up in your body. The less waste and fluid that builds up, the better.
Body changes and the fear
People with chronic kidney disease often experience undesirable changes to their bodies. This makes them feel less attractive, and ultimately, less interested in sex. Changes include breath or body odor, weight gain, complexion problems, unusual facial/body hair and more. Additionally, those on hemodialysis may feel very self-conscious about how their vascular access site looks.
It is also common to feel afraid of sexual activity, fearing it might harm your condition. In fact, it is quite rare for sexual intercourse to be harmful so it’s always a good plan to speak with your doctor about any concerns.
Kidney disease and erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is also a common complaint among millions of men in the US. Even men without kidney disease suffer from impotence. It happens when the nerves and blood vessels in the penis are damaged. A proper erection cannot be maintained without proper blood flow. Kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes affect blood flow and weaken the blood vessels. And sometimes, ED can happen as a result of certain medications. If you’re experiencing impotence it’s important to talk to your doctor to see which treatment is best for you and if switching medications is an option.
The best treatment for ED depends on the cause. If it’s a hormone problem, then testosterone replacement therapy may be helpful. Other times, your doctor may recommend taking certain medications such as Viagra. In cases where nothing else works, a doctor might advise surgery.
How to prevent kidney problems
Keeping your body healthy is the best way to prevent any kidney problems in the future. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and performing regular exercise will help with kidney function.