Sickle Cell Disease is a common and disabling disorder which profoundly affects mortality as well as quality of life.
SCD complications may have some effects on the sexuality of the individual and may lead to both psychological and physical impediments to sex. These may occasionally keep individuals from experiencing sexual fulfillment. We refer to this as sexual dysfunction.
Here are some typical reasons for sexual dysfunction:
- Absence of sexual interest or desire
- Inability to become aroused physically, despite interest
- Problems having an orgasm
- Pain during sex
Sexual dysfunction caused by Sickle Cell Disease in men and women
Men with sickle cell disease’s sexual dysfunction is frequently brought on by issues around ejaculating or sustaining an erection. While women experience vaginal dryness or difficulties relaxing the vaginal muscles that may prevent them from experiencing orgasms. In addition, both men and women might experience discomfort during sex or lose interest in having sex.
Amongst some of the other effects of SCD, women who have pain crises or chronic pain frequently are more likely to experience discomfort when having sex. In men, a condition known as ischemic priapism, which causes painful, protracted erections, can afflict up to 35% of men with sickle cell disease. Fibrosis and lifelong erectile dysfunction are potential side effects of priapic episodes.
SCD has also been known to cause infertility mostly amongst males, due to the fact that men with sickle cell disease seldom father children, but many females with the condition have been known to carry successful pregnancies. Thus, infertility appears to be a bigger issue for males than females with the condition.
This is further buttressed by the fact that males with SCD more commonly have abnormal sperm (with rates as high as 91%). Males with SCD have higher rates of low sperm density, low sperm counts, poor motility, and greater aberrant morphology.
Tips for a healthy sex life with SCD
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some ways by which persons with SCD can have a safe and healthy sex life too.
- Discuss your sexual health with your spouse. This can make them more aware of how SCD impacts you, and together you can improve intimacy. Discussing topics like how SCD’s physical and mental problems impact your desire for or capacity for sex are crucial, which sexual activity may cause SCD problems like pain episodes and ways they may be supportive and helpful.
- Usually, SCD patients are able to utilize regular birth control tablets. But because estrogen and progesterone tablets raise the risk of blood clots, your doctor may advise against using them. For the best method of birth control for you, ask your doctor.
- Men with SCD can utilize typical contraceptive methods as well, particularly condoms. Infections that are transferred sexually must also be avoided. Use a condom if you’re taking hydroxyurea to avoid getting the medication in your partner’s body fluids.
- Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing persistent sexual issues that are physical in nature. To determine what is amiss, tests can be run. They can then recommend potential therapies. For instance, they could offer advice on how to handle and prevent priapism episodes at home. Additionally, they can modify your SCD therapies to lessen sex-related side effects.
- The mental elements of SCD are frequently linked to sexual dysfunction. You are never at fault. You can manage stress and anxiety with the aid of a therapist. They can also assist you in formulating plans to meet upcoming difficulties. To increase intimacy and communication, think about taking your spouse along.
Learn as much as you can about complications of SCD and sexual health. Ask your doctor for resources or join support groups where these topics are discussed.
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