Sexual Chemistry: Diseases and Dysfunction (Part 1 of 3)
Reported November 7, 2005
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) — When you think about health problems like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, you probably don’t think about sex. But research shows chances are if you’re diagnosed with one of these diseases, your sex life may never be the same.
Nancy and Dennis Tyrrell know how to make marriage a success. After 21 years, they still remember their initial attraction. But a few years ago, Nancy’s health tested their bond.
Doctors found a large tumor near her uterus. A hysterectomy took care of it but left Nancy with no sex drive. The couple wasn’t intimate for two years. “I thought, ‘I can’t live my life this way,'” Nancy says. “I felt bad for him. I felt bad for me. I mean by this time now, I was 42, and I thought, ‘I’m miserable.'”
David Rosebrock knows that feeling, too. After surgery and chemotherapy for bladder cancer, his sex drive dwindled to nothing. “The drive is not there. I mean you think about it, but you’re too tired to worry about it,” he says.
Dana Ohl, M.D., a urologist at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says doctors used to label sexual dysfunction a psychological problem. But today, “We think that about 90 percent of sexual dysfunction is actually a physical basis,” she tells Ivanhoe.
For example, cardiovascular disease can cause arteries to clog and harden, so blood doesn’t flow to the genitals. Dr. Ohl says many times, it’s the first indicator that someone has a vascular problem at all. Luckily, drugs like Viagra, injections or penile implants can help men. For women, a device called the Eros can improve blood flow.
Sexual dysfunction can be one of the first symptoms of diabetes.
Women’s Health Specialist Holly Thacker, M.D., says keeping blood sugars under control and a healthy lifestyle are vital. “Exercise is an aphrodisiac. It improves blood flow to everywhere, in the whole entire body, including the genitals,” Dr. Thacker, of The Cleveland Clinic, tells Ivanhoe.
Cancer survivors also frequently report sexual dysfunction. Experts say talk with your partner or other cancer survivors and track your desire. If you feel the desire during certain times of the day, try being intimate at that time every day.
Rosebrock hopes to try injections after his chemo ends. He says, “I’m hoping to get back to a more normal status.”
Hormone pills worked for Nancy. “It’s the best that it’s ever been. Dennis is a happy man.”