Healthy Living

Bedroom Talk: Sex, Erectile Dysfunction, and Parkinson's Disease

Bedroom Talk: Sex, Erectile Dysfunction, and Parkinson's Disease

Sex, one of the many natural aspects of human behavior, involves passion, immense trust, and great vulnerability as people find themselves sharing a close and physically intimate moment with another person. It offers a brief moment of liberation from the often time dull reality or for some, a way for them to profess deep love and longing. While it offers many positive effects on the human psyche and overall well-being, people can meet certain problems along the way, which replaces their positive attitude on sex with fear and anxiety. The bedroom, which is usually attributed to good memories and excitement, may become replaced with feelings of guilt, anger, and frustration.

Sexual dysfunction is the term used to describe problems that occur during a phase or phases of sexual intercourse. There have been many studies that explain the cause of sexual dysfunction and as predicted, rooted in the person’s biological and psychological functioning. There are also many forms of sexual dysfunction which differs depending on the gender of the patient. Women may have problems with arousal and pleasure, but for men, their problems during intercourse may arise from their inability to form an erection.

Erectile Dysfunction as a sign of Parkinson’s disease 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, erectile dysfunction affects up about 30 million Americans alone. By definition, erectile dysfunction refers to the inability or difficulty of achieving and/or maintaining an erection during sexual intercourse with or without reduced sexual interest. However, it is important to note that occasional experiences of erectile dysfunction can be considered normal and can be easily explained by stress or anxiety. It is only considered a problem when the symptoms of erectile dysfunction are experienced at a frequent rate. After their initial diagnosis, men should seek further professional help.

The importance of seeking professional is in order for both the doctor and patient to determine the cause of the experienced erectile dysfunction. Once the cause of the dysfunction is found, doctors and other medical professionals will take the measures needed to resolve the patient’s erectile dysfunction. This may involve both medical and even psychological intervention when needed.

Erectile dysfunction can be diagnosed through interviews with a doctor, and patients will be asked about their symptoms and medical history. Physical exams will also be conducted, such as blood pressure and heart and lung check-ups. Rectal, blood, and urine tests may also be recommended by the doctor. These are all crucial in detecting underlying problems that are usually linked to erectile dysfunction such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney problems.

However, recent studies on erectile dysfunction have shown that it may signal another underlying health problem that involves motor and sleep disturbances, known as Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain condition which affects nerve cells that produces dopamine, which would then lead the patient to encountering problems in muscle movements, tremors, and speech. Sexual dysfunctions are actually a common complaint in patients who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s diseases with its incidence rate going around 70 to 80 percent.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology, their findings show a strong correlation between erectile dysfunction and Parkinson’s disease. The respondents of the study are composed of 3,000 men who are diagnosed with erectile dysfunction and 12,000 healthy men as their control group. After a seven-year follow-up, the findings of their study show that 52 percent of the men that are diagnosed with erectile dysfunction are at a high risk for developing Parkinson's disease as compared to the control group who had no erectile problems, even after adjusting extraneous variables that might affect the outcome.

They have also compared specific health conditions and found out that the risk for Parkinson’s was very strong. Respondents who are diagnosed with diabetes and erectile dysfunction were three times as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Meanwhile, respondents who were diagnosed with high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction are two times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease in comparison to the healthy group.

The process of erectile dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease

In Parkinson’s, the most common type of sexual dysfunction that is observed is in relation to achieving and/or maintain an erection. Usually, as what doctors and other medical professionals have known over the years, Parkinson’s disease can lead to sexual dysfunction. The motor symptoms that are observed in Parkinson's disease can be a hindrance to completing sexual intercourse with one’s partner, such as bradykinesia, rigidity, and dyskinesia or tremors.

However, newfound research shows that it can go the other way around and that erectile dysfunction can be considered a sign and not as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Sexual responses are the result of the complex interaction between the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and somatic systems in the body. Dysfunctions during that process, however, can lead to problems, such as achieving arousal or successfully completing the intercourse itself due to the failure of achieving an erection. Researchers also explained that low testosterone levels may explain the correlation between erectile dysfunction and Parkinson’s disease. Testosterone is a sex hormone found in men that is needed to achieve proper erectile functioning. Thus, following this explanation, erectile dysfunction can often be explained by low levels of testosterone hormones. Furthermore, low levels of this hormone can also be seen in Parkinson’s patients. Another theory from researchers is that dopamine may play a role as well.

Final thoughts

Sexual dysfunctions, specifically erectile dysfunction, may mean more than what meets the eye. That is why consultation with medical professionals and specialists is helpful so that prevention and immediate intervention can be done in order to avoid future problems caused by inaction.

If one starts to notice frequent problems with their body during sexual intercourse, it might be a good idea to visit a local doctor or medical specialist. Studies have shown that there are actually a lot of health conditions that are attributed to erectile dysfunction such as diabetes, heart problems, and Parkinson’s disease. The human body is very complex and sometimes, there are things that might seem ordinary and normal but actually have underlying problems that may go unnoticed.

Although there are many medications available to treat erectile dysfunction, specifically in Parkinson’s disease such as injections of papaverine, phentolamine, and alprostadil or oral medicine such as Viagra (sildenafil). Ensuring a healthy diet and frequent clinical check-ups may go a long way and is helpful not just for one’s health but for one’s pockets as well. It is true when people say prevention is always better than cure, although in some cases Parkinson's disease be hereditary. In the study mentioned, people with erectile dysfunction and comorbid health problems, specifically diabetes and hypertension have a huge risk of developing Parkinson's disease. It is best advised for people to eat healthily and do things that are known to be good for the body to avoid such risk.

Both erectile dysfunction and Parkinson’s disease can have a huge impact on people’s lives in areas of social functioning, work life, and family can be highly affected.  Erectile dysfunction can be a huge challenge for many men, but it is not something to be ashamed about. It is important not turn a blind eye once there is an observed problem and is highly recommended that fast action and intervention must be done to detect in underlying problems such as Parkinson’s.