Sexual intimacy has always been stigmatised and people are hesitant to talk about their sexuality openly. In the current scenario, pandemic has not only deteriorated the mental health but has also affected sexual health problems amongst the individuals.
One of the primary reasons of increasing stress levels among individuals is due to factors such as jobs, work life imbalance, financial challenges, and lack of socialization and relationship conflicts among others. Stress directly affects our hormones and mood and takes away a person’s libido thereby affecting the quality time of the couple. It can gradually make an individual a smoker or an alcoholic which in turn can adversely affect sexual performance. These can lead to problems such as Premature Ejaculation, Erectile Dysfunction, reduced libido, and male fertility. A man should be strong physically, mentally, and spiritually. A balanced sexual life always allows an individual to have healthy relationships, planned pregnancies, disease, and prevention. Hence, it is essential to be aware about all aspects of sexual health and what it takes to have a fulfilling sexual life.
A recent Italian study (WebMD) discovered that Covid-19 increases risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) by nearly six times. Diabetes, obesity, and smoking which increase the risk of contracting COVID -19 also the risk factors for ED. The data estimates that men with a history of coronavirus will have 5.66 times higher chances of developing erectile dysfunction. The problem could be short term or long term. While erectile dysfunction does affect men and is generally considered A Man’s Thing, however, it also impacts the women in a relationship. As per the findings of a recent survey, 56 per cent of men would like to discuss erectile dysfunction with their partners to fix their relationship while 28 per cent of women might consider separation if their partner does not take any corrective measures for erectile dysfunction.
The common sexual health issues affecting men are:
Cardiovascular Disease – The Leading Men’s Health Threat- Heart disease and strokes are the first and second most common disease in both men and women. It is advisable to increase physical activity and change in dietary can do wonders.
Depression and Diabetes – If left untreated, diabetes can lead to nerve and kidney damage, heart disease and stroke, and even vision problems or blindness. Men with diabetes face a risk of lower testosterone levels and sexual impotence. This can lead to increased depression or anxiety.
Liver disease – Patients affected by liver diseases tend to increase in advanced liver failure. This process is directly linked to cirrhosis or its treatments, such as liver transplantation, or to certain drugs (e.g. beta-blockers). Independent of cirrhosis, other factors may cause sexual problems in these patients.
Premature Ejaculation – If you ejaculate before or very soon after initiating sexual activity, you could be experiencing premature ejaculation. While it’s best known as a nuisance to younger men who are just beginning to explore a sexual relationship, it happens in men of all ages at about the same rate. In fact, it can serve as a warning sign for erectile dysfunction among older men, or underlying anxiety disorder.
Erectile Dysfunction – If you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection that is firm enough to have sex, you may be suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction occurs when there’s not enough blood flow to the penis to sustain an erection. In many cases can be linked to a physical condition, vascular disease, thyroid imbalances, diabetes, and hypertension. It can also be caused by psychological conditions, such as anxiety, stress, and depression. While ED is more common among men over the age of 50, it can happen at any age.
Reduced Libido (Reduced sexual desire)– Low libido means that your desire or interest in sex has decreased. The condition is often linked with low levels of the male hormone, testosterone. Testosterone maintains sex drive, sperm production, muscle, hair, and bone. Low testosterone can affect your body and mood. Reduced sexual desire may also be caused by depression, anxiety, or relationship difficulties. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain medications like antidepressants may also contribute to a low libido.
Sexual health problems can also be due to a physical or psychological cause and are often a combination of both:
Physical reasons include:
Illness or infection
Side effects from medications
Psychological reasons include:
Anxiety, depression, or low self esteem
Uncertainty about your sexuality
Previous sexual experiences
Talking about your sexual health with an andrologist is extremely important. Your doctor can recommend ways to stay safe and improve your sexual health problems. A healthy lifestyle can help improve sexual function — improving diet, achieving, and maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly all help promote greater overall health and, therefore, greater sexual health.
This article is authored by Dr. S S Vasan (Bangalore) MBBS, DNB-General Surgery, DNB-Urology/Genito-Urinary Surgery, FICS, Fellowship in Andrology and Incontinence (Singapore)