Another blog request! Keep them coming. I felt like one of my Salt-N-Pepa jams would be an appropriate title for this one. I will give a disclaimer to this blog. Not for children, and to my mother-in-law that I love, skip this entry and put a word down on Words With Friends. 🙂
Sexual dysfunction seems to be a very common occurrence for those with Lyme disease, yet no one seems to want to admit to it, or talk about it with their doctors. In fact, 70% of men and women are hesitant to talk to their doctors about these issues. I will admit, I am one of them.
I make jokes about sex. Well… lack of. When I had my gallbladder surgery last year, I was asked if I could be pregnant. I replied in a joking manner, “I think you are suppose to have sex to get pregnant, right?!”, with Dave right beside me. They chuckled and looked at Dave, then realized I was being totally serious. Yup. A whole lot of nothing has been going on in the bed for a long time. I will be real to every single reader I have. I have promised that.
Dave and I for a very long time had a great sex life. It was fun. We were totally into each other and even had the joke that “naughty time starts at nine”. When I started getting sicker, around 6 years ago, things started dwindling down. Was it that I was a little too comfortable? Lost that spark?
No. Back then, it was complete and utter exhaustion. I was achy and just plain didn’t feel good. Feeling poorly, I did what I could to keep the sexual intimacy alive, and when I was feeling better, I took full advantage of it. 😉
Then came my Lyme diagnosis and the beginning of my treatment in 2012. That dwindled down sex life turned into a just about non existent sex life. I noticed it was very painful to even have sex, and there was no possible way I could get in the mood. I am sad to say after awhile I lost all feeling of excitement “down there”. Things have turned into a “let’s get this over with” sort of deal. That sucks. Being sick and debilitated also does wonders on ruining your self esteem and confidence in the bedroom I must say. Nothing is sexier than a chest powerline with the tubing hanging down over your boob. LOL
I have a lot of feelings of guilt even though I cannot help it. Dave deserves a friggin medal for everything he has done for me, and not getting a whole lot action. Many people that are going through this having a chronic illness aren’t so lucky. Many partners can’t handle this and either end up leaving, or end up cheating. I know he is still upset and it is probably the worst part about this illness on him, but he has gotten more use to it. He doesn’t really have much of a choice, since I know he will always remain faithful to me. He use to say things to me joking around (even though I know there was truth to it), that made me really hurt, and it didn’t help with a lot to cope with this missing part of our relationship. But now, I am trying to be more accepting as I know I will get better, and there will be a lot of making up to do. 😉
Some of my readers shared their stories with me as well, and I really appreciate it! Here are some of their stories:
“I read your blog like a priest reads the bible ! We have so much in common and I love it! The most area in common is our supportive husbands ! One of my biggest issues since starting treatment 2 yrs ago is sex! Can u plz blog on it! I think my husband and I have finally found some solace in this area but it’s difficult. And no one talks about it ! We use to be very active and fun in that area and now, well, not so much ! Thought maybe a lot of others would like to hear about how it is for others for what others did to overcome this obstacle ! Absolutely ! My feeling gone too , think it’s the meds ! However sometimes it comes back for an hour or a couple days and watch out!”
“I was married 28 years and basically divorced bc my ex wanted me to admit I was crazy and didn’t have lyme bc he didn’t want to pay for treatment s. I wasn’t going to admit I was crazy when I was fighting for my life for lyme. Sex became little because who wants to have sex with someone who is evil. As far as him. He has never been tested, but other than narcissist personality disorder has no symptoms. We were married for four years of my lyme. I never saw tick bit or rash and did have deer in my backyard. Also developed advanced inflammatory breast cancer that is linked to bartonella. , a lyme coinfection , and symptomatically fits as the cause or trigger of the cancer. Which I survived.”
“Hi Kim. The lyme and sex issue is a big one for me. You see, I have polycystic ovarian syndrome which causes an excess of male hormones to be rampant in my body. My hubby and I met in 2002 and married in 2008. I was basically a nympho to be honest. The sexual appetite of the typical male. Since this disease have beaten me up neurologically, I just don’t have the desire or the energy even on the rare occasion when the pain is bearable. My poor hubby has had his life turned upside down. I truly wouldn’t blame him for throwing up his hands and walking away, but he’s been an angel. I don’t know how I got so lucky honestly.”
“Jeff and I use to be intimate 3-4 times a week. Dinner, movies all that stuff you see in movies. Since I have been sick maybe once a month. Sometimes when I am better he becomes one lucky shit because I don’t know when I will feel like me. Now our intimate moments are different. We talk, he listens holds me when I cry. When I am angry…Our life use to be so much fun, romance and love… now it’s pills, docs, and days with me laying in the couch. For valentine’s this year ( we usually do movies and dinner) he asked me what I wanted and I seriously said one day of being better… just give me a day. I hate that lyme feels like it is coming between us. Long story short, no see. Doesn’t happen often here…. and I miss it.”
So what are some of the reasons of a lowered libido and difficulty to become aroused? There are quite a few.. here are some that I found:
Pain – Pain everywhere on your body. Your back, your legs, your joints. It doesn’t really get you in the mood which is understandable. Sometimes, actual intercourse can be extremely painful for a variety of reasons. Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina), poor lubrication, and vaginal tearing can make sex very painful.
Hormonal – Estrogen is one of the likely reasons to have a loss of feeling while having intercourse as it provides the most response to sexual stimulation. Prolactin, a hormone made in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, in high amounts can cause a decrease in sex drive in both men and women. Cortisol is a steroid hormone in your body. It is known as the “fight or flight” hormone, and if it is too high, which is relatively common with Lyme disease it can cause an array of problems from IBS, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, sleeping issues, bloating, as well as a loss of sex drive since it makes you feel very sluggish. Men with lowered testosterone lose their sex drive, cn have erectile disfunction, and often lose sensations, and the ability to orgasm. Women also have natural testosterone in their body and when it is too low, their sex drive goes down as well. When too high, sex drives go up. Other important hormones that can cause a lowered libido when not enough are produced are progesterone, pregnenolone, and DHEA.
Thyroid – Studies have shown that thyroid problems are the number one problem that causes sexual dysfunction and it is commonly misdiagnosed. Hypothyroidism, meaning low thyroid production is the most common thyroid issue pertaining to Lyme disease. Men tend to have a harder time keeping their sex drive if their thyroid is overactive. TSH, which controls the production of hormones, when not working properly, it does not produce the hormones that are listed above as well as needed to maintain a healthy sex drive. Free thyroxine promotes blood circulation. This is another reason for loss of sensitivity and erectile disfunction.
Exhaustion – “Not tonight hun, I’m too tired.” Yup. It happens. Lyme disease and co infections often cause exhaustion that is overpowering, and the bed just sounds like a wonderful place to sleep, not to get some action. If you have a burst of energy and feel up to it, us it to your full advantage! 🙂
Medications – A lot of antibiotics, as most of us are on can cause a loss of libido. The side effects of them as well such as nausea don’t help either. Medications such as depression and anxiety meds are very common tools used to ease the neurological manifestations of Lyme can also tremendously have an impact on your sex drive. Ovulation suppressing birth controls can decrease your libido. I am personally on Depo Provera, a progesterone birth control, that suppresses ovulation, so I very rarely get a period. It has helped with my ovarian cysts and severe cramping, but I am sure it probably doesn’t help in the bedroom. Kind of ironic right? A birth control that makes it so you have no interest in sex? Maybe that’s why birth control works so well. 😉
Emotional Issues – Stress, anxiety, and depression are common among Lymies. Fear, of not being able to perform the same can be another reason for a decreased libido. Women tend to develop a condition called vaginismus, which is a painful, involuntary spasm of the muscles that surround the vaginal entrance. This can occur when a woman has been through a traumatic event, but in terms of chronic illness, it can happen when a woman fears that penetration will be painful. So.. painful before what might be painful. Fun stuff.
I should also note that some people have an extreme increase in libido having Lyme disease. Although much more rare, our bodies are all different and do different things! Patients can have sexual obsessions, sexual hallucinations, and compulsively masturbate. (I am sure most of our men would have really preferred this side of the spectrum. LOL)
I asked one of my friends if she would share her experience and this brings up another very valid part of Lyme and sex.
“Things have changed since the beginning of treatment, and knowing that we were all infected with Lyme. Condoms are a must. We thought those days were over after my hysterectomy. Also, we are mindful of herxing because the body is so tired at that point that intimacy is the last thing on our minds.
We do hug more. We talk more, and that has made our relationship stronger because we’re very mindful of how each other feels. If we’re both feeling good, we don’t hesitate to spend quality intimate time together.”
There is an article floating around on the net about Lyme being sexually transmitted. And you know what? A lot of evidence supports that. I created a blog awhile back about Lyme and sexual transmission, if you would like to take a looksie here is the link. 🙂 https://kimmiecakeskickslyme.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/transmission-of-lyme-not-just-by-ticks/
Okay. So now you know some of the possible causes. So what are some of the things you can do about it? I know some things are just out of your control right now, and sex is probably the last thing on your mind. Getting your hormone levels and thyroid checked are important things to do when you have Lyme disease anyways, not just pertaining to intimacy, because as we all know Lyme completely wreaks havoc on your body. This can be done with simple blood tests. There are many different supplements that can be used to help support your hormones, and keeping your immune system as happy as possible will help.
There are studies for men with impotency issues such as numbness to do what is called “penis training”. Yes, this is a medical term I found. Lyme causes a lot of nerve issues, even where you don’t want them to. AKA your penis. Doctors recommend stimulation of the areas that are numb to try to regain feeling again. I guess that makes sense. I get foot rubs to regain feeling in my feet again, so why not your man parts?
Sex tools. If you are comfortable enough with trying it, sometimes adding things like a vibrator in the bedroom can be helpful to try to get things going again. Another recommendation is to make sure lubrication is used especially in this instance, since a low libido in women does not get women ready for sex, and this can prevent tearing. Erotic materials or changing up your sexual routine are good options to try to spice up your love life.
Some people need to talk to a counselor to work through this issues. Do not be ashamed if you need to talk to one to cope, or have a couples therapy.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about your concerns and issues. Keep the communication alive and don’t keep this topic in the dark. Sex is a very important part of a relationship. Although you might not be able to be sexually active right now or enjoy sex, there are many other ways to keep intimacy in the relationship. Talking, kissing, even any form of touching like back rubs, foot rubs, or laying together on the couch can be comforting and bring you and your partner closer together.
As I always say, I am not a doctor so talk with your doctor before starting any new medications or changing anything in your protocols. It can be important to communicate any issues with your doctor as it can be a sign of something like a hormone imbalance or thyroid issue. Without targeting some of these issues, it can cause other problems with your health, and in terms of sex and relationships, it can have a negative impact on your relationship. Best wishes to you all! Also know, it’s not just you. There are many of us out there facing the same issues. If you would like to share your story, feel free to comment!
Sources: foreverhealth.com http://clevelandclinic.org, http://women.webmd.com/news/20020321/thyroid-may-cause-sexual-problems, lymedisease.org, http://www.anapsid.org/lyme/psychosocial.html, healthcentral.com, samento.com ,mdjunction.com, Photo credit even though it has nothing to do with Lyme and is in a foreign language, but thought it was a cute pic harbergazate.com