Shabana MS, Senior Psychologist, DaVita India
Sex is a basic need for humans. Age and diseases – chronic or acute cannot change this basic need. However, in the case of those with chronic illnesses, sex is usually brushed aside – both from the patient himself or herself and even from caregivers and physicians. Importance has to be given to sexual needs while making a treatment plan as the deprivation can lead to many more complexities.
Impact of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) on sexual health
An illness like Chronic Kidney Disease, due to its regimen and changes in lifestyle and habits can have adverse effects on an individual’s self-image. It may be hard to maintain a positive outlook on life as the disease will leave them feeling with a sense of let down from their own bodies and minds. Sexual dysfunction can manifest as loss of libido or sexual interest, problems with erection (achieving or maintaining), infertility in men and loss of sexual interest, irregular menstruation or painful menstruation and infertility in women.
Contributors for sexual dysfunction in CKD
- Hormonal alterations
- Neurologic Factors
- Psychologic Factors
Men and women with chronic kidney disease, face problems related to fertility. Women who conceive a child while on dialysis or following a transplant are at increased risk of premature delivery and having babies with small birth weight. Pregnancy and delivery and post partum changes can cause stress and one should know how far one can go taking into account one’s current health condition, support system etc. It is important that you and your partner discuss family planning with your doctor.
Sexual development of young people
The effect of chronic kidney disease on a child’s sexual development depends on the age the disease develops. Children with chronic kidney disease may have slowed growth. Teenagers with chronic kidney disease may find that their sexual development slows down or even stops. It is important for children and young adults to have someone to talk to about the physical, emotional and sexual changes they are experiencing.
Steps to manage difficulties in your sexual life:
- Accepting that sexual activity is a basic need and you do not have to feel ashamed to openly ask help from doctors to rectify or improve the condition. Discuss your worries and clarify your doubts with the concerned care provider and partner.
- Adherence to treatment plan suggested by your doctor (for example; undergoing dialysis as prescribed by the doctor, remedial measures for anemia as reduced iron level can cause difficulty in getting an erection).
- Follow healthy diet and lifestyle. Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking as this may affect sexual function.
- Sexuality doesn’t imply only to sexual intercourse as it also includes many other activities like foreplay and a sense of oneness. It is about how we feel about ourselves, how well we communicate and how willing we are to be close to someone else. One can derive immense satisfaction and happiness if he or she engages in physical display of affection and love even without intercourse and understanding this aspect will definitely improve your sexual life.
- Taking support from psychologist on how to cope with it. Sex therapy can help with problems such as low sexual interest, pain during sexual activity, erection difficulties and trouble in reaching climax. During therapy, sex therapist may assign you activities that has to be done at home like communication exercises, stress reduction tips, and practicing ways of improving skills in giving and receiving pleasurable touches. Sex therapy also can help in overall sexual functioning.
- There can be a state of overall well being with proper compliance to the treatment regimen prescribed. Once there is a feeling of well being, libido and sexual performance will improve.
- It is important to remember that people with kidney failure can have healthy marriages and meaningful relationships. They can fall in love, care for families, and be sexual. Staying intimate with those you love is important. It is something everyone needs.
Talk to your nephrologist about your health or reach out to a DaVita teammate at 080 6000 6200 for an appointment.