Category: Sexual Health
Is Thyroid Disease Hindering Your Sexual Health?
Exploring the Thyroid's Role in Male Sexual Dysfunction
In recent years, the problem of male sexual dysfunction has emerged as a high-profile health issue. Once viewed as shameful and rarely discussed in public, erectile dysfunction and other sexual disorders are now regarded simply as health problems that require treatment, no different than asthma or allergies.
One clear sign of this shift in the public's thinking about male sexual dysfunction is the fact that it's nearly impossible to watch prime-time television programming without encountering one or more commercials for erectile dysfunction treatments. It's hard to imagine this happening even a decade ago.
However, although the public's awareness of and willingness to openly discuss sexual health issues has increased considerably, the exact causes of some of these disorders remains shrouded in mystery. Many men believe that a decline in sexual performance is simply an unavoidable part of the aging process, but scientists believe that many forms of sexual dysfunction have their roots in specific -- and treatable -- medical conditions.
One little-known source of male sexual dysfunction is the thyroid gland. Recent research has indicated that fluctuations in the endocrine system of which the thyroid is a key element may impact male sexual performance. This week, we'll take a look at the thyroid's role in sexual health for men -- and what you or your partner can do to avoid these problems.
Thyroid Problems: A Hidden Threat for Older Men
Overall, thyroid diseases affect women much more frequently than men. However, as men enter late middle age, their chances of experiencing thyroid problem increases considerably. Recent studies have indicated that as many as one in ten men over the age of 60 experience some degree of fluctuation in thyroid function.
Sadly, many of these cases of thyroid dysfunction are believed to go undiagnosed. Physicians often are not attuned to the possibility that thyroid problems are more common than previously thought among older men. Furthermore, the symptoms of this type of thyroid disease are often minimal and can easily be misinterpreted as signs of other health problems.
The Thyroid Gland and Male Sexual Dysfunction
A number of recent studies have seemed to identify a strong and pervasive connection between thyroid dysfunction and sexual dysfunction in older men. Interestingly, both of the most common forms of thyroid diseases have been linked to sexual problems in men.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is overactive, producing an excess of thyroid hormone in the endocrine system. The most common sexual side effect linked to hyperthyroidism in men is premature ejaculation, which is not surprising, as this thyroid disorder often causes many bodily processes and systems to "speed up" unnaturally. However, some men with diagnoses of hyperthyroidism also reported diminished sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
For older male patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the connection to sexual dysfunction was no less pervasive, although the types of symptoms that were most commonly reported differed slightly from those seen among hyperthyroid patients. For men with hypothyroidism, the most frequently cited sexual problem was a sharp decline in desire and libido. Delayed ejaculation was also a common issue among men in this group.
Treatments and Outcomes
Although reports of sexual dysfunction appear to be very common among men with thyroid disorders, the good news is that treatment of the underlying thyroid disorder typically eliminates virtually all of the related sexual symptoms. Once thyroid function has been returned to normal with hormone supplementation or other pharmaceutical treatment, most men reported that their persistent sexual problems were greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.
If you or your partner have a family history of thyroid problems, iodine deficiency, or radiation exposure, it's particularly important to stay on the lookout for signs of thyroid disease. If you have any of the common risk factors for thyroid disorders, be sure to let your doctor know that thyroid issues might be a cause for concern.
Likewise, if you or your partner have experienced otherwise unexplained sexual problems, you may want to mention the possibility of a thyroid-related cause to your physician. With a few simple blood tests, you can determine whether your thyroid is functioning properly -- and whether thyroid fluctuations could be hindering your love life.
For Further Reading
Could a Thyroid Disorder Such as Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism Be Impacting Your Love Life?
Measuring only a tiny two inches wide, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland nonetheless plays a major role in determining your overall health. Seemingly minute variations in its function can set off a series of problems that can impact everything from your energy level to your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re like many patients who have undergone treatment for a thyroid disorder, you were probably surprised to find out just how many elements of your well-being this little gland can impact. But what you might not know is that thyroid-related problems have even been known to rear their head in the bedroom.
On first glance, it may seem unlikely that thyroid issues could inhibit your sexual desire or performance. But once you consider the way that thyroid disorders can broadly impact factors like energy, mood, and metabolism, the interconnection may begin to make more sense.
In fact, both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can affect the libido, although each of these disorders tend to impact sexuality in a different way.
We’ll take a look at the potentially negative effects that the two most common thyroid disorders can have on sexual drive and performance -- and what thyroid patients can do to promote and preserve healthy intimacy.
Hypothyroidism and Sexual Health
Patients suffering with abnormally slow thyroid function know that this disorder can sometimes make even the simplest tasks of everyday life feel like an impossible struggle. Depression, fatigue, low energy, weight gain, lethargy, and exhaustion are facts of life for many hypothyroid patients.
Today, awareness about thyroid health issues is at an all-time high, so it’s easier than ever before for patients with hyperthyroidism to seek out valuable information about many of the symptoms that they face. However, the sensitive issue of sexual health is often not as readily and widely discussed.
The reality is that sexual problems are a common side effect of hypothyroidism. Specifically, many patients with hypothyroidism report having difficulty achieving and maintaining arousal. Researchers believe that these symptoms are attributable to the overall slowdown of the metabolism that hypothyroidism causes.
These problems can make it difficult for hypothyroid patients to achieve intimate satisfaction. But perhaps even more significantly, when one partner experiences a sharp decline in sex drive, these issues can cause deep-seated strain in a relationship, adding additional stress and anxiety to an already difficult situation.
Hyperthyroidism and Sexual Health
Though not as common as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism still affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans, many of whom may also experience sexual problems as a result of their disorder. However, the sexual symptoms linked to hyperthyroidism don’t typically follow as clear a pattern as do those that are associated with hypothyroidism; instead, there are several distinct symptom patterns that may emerge.
The first type of sexual dysfunction linked with hyperthyroidism is close to what you would expect: because this disorder speeds up the metabolism, some patients report sharp variations (including, in some cases, sudden increases) in sex drive. In male patients with hyperthyroidism, this can also sometimes result in issues with performance and premature ejaculation.
The second type of sexual dysfunction linked with hyperthyroidism is somewhat counter-intuitive: many patients actually report a decline in overall sex drive, similar to that which is often reported by those with hypothyroidism. How can this be possible, if hyperthyroidism results in an excessively fast metabolism?
At the current juncture, researchers aren’t exactly sure why this happens, but there are two primary theories that have been advanced. First, it is common for patients with hyperthyroidism to actually display many of the textbook symptoms of hypothyroidism as soon as they begin taking corrective medication. In many cases, this period of drug-induced hypothyroidism is temporary, but the rapid changes in the metabolism can cause a turbulent period of adjustment.
Secondly, an alternate explanation that has been advanced for the decline in sex drive sometimes experienced by hyperthyroid patients is garden-variety fatigue. Keeping pace with an overly speedy metabolism can be exhausting, and hyperthyroid patients often struggle with exhaustion as a result. This, in turn, can result in a diminished libido in some people with hyperthyroidism.
Action Plan: Steps to Help Improve Sexual Difficulties
The relationship between these common thyroid disorders and sexual health is very complex, and it is often impossible to predict the way that hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism will impact each patient’s ability to engage in intimacy. Furthermore, when problems do occur, they can often be hard to rectify completely. You can improve the chances that you will be able to maintain a healthy, positive sexual relationship with your partner by incorporating these hints and tips:
- Adhere as closely as possible to your prescription regimen. Even slight discrepancies in your schedule can lead to thyroid fluctuations that may throw your entire system off balance.
- Maintain a healthy diet and fitness routine. This will help you combat fatigue, improve your self-confidence, and keep your metabolism in check.
- Discuss sexual symptoms frankly and matter-of-factly with your doctor if they arise. It may feel awkward, but physicians are trained to listen to patients’ concerns without passing judgment -- it’s their job. Nipping the problem in the bud as soon as it arises is always the best thing you can do.
- Consider supplementing your thyroid medication with additional hormone treatments. These can help balance the fluctuations that can wreak havoc on your sex drive and performance. Your doctor can help you decide if this is the best option for you.
- If the problem is persistent, consider couples counseling. It may be difficult for your partner to understand that a drastic change in sex drive or performance isn’t a personal rejection. A licensed helping professional may offer the support you both need to work through this sensitive issue in a positive, healthy way.
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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