The Challenges of Sex and Young Onset Parkinson's Disease
While most individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience onset at age 50 years or older, young-onset Parkinson’s disease can impact individuals as young as 30 years of age. Some extraordinary cases have even shown individuals as young as 18 years old diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, but thankfully, these instances are few and far in-between. Whatever the age of onset may be, one of the most important symptoms patients face are changes in their sex-life.
Whether it is a result of Parkinson’s itself or a side effect of certain medications, sexual performance can become disrupted and challenging for patients. An individual developing Parkinson’s disease may likely experience changes in self-esteem, stress levels, anxiety, body image, and energy. This combination of negative self-perception and fatigue, paired with the overwhelming motor challenges of Parkinson’s disease, can understandably reduce intimacy and sexual desires.
Men may often experience erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and decreased libido while women may find it difficult to become aroused or experience pain during intercourse. These changes can create a rift in romantic and social relationships, but maintaining a healthy sex life is not impossible.
Understanding Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder, attacks the central nervous system and gradually reduces the control over bodily movement and functions. While symptoms vary from person to person, common symptoms include stiff muscles, hand tremors, trouble walking, and difficulty with maintaining coordination. Aside from movement, Parkinson’s disease can also impact sleep, speech, mood, and other cognitive functions. Many patients may suffer from anxiety, depression, restless sleep, daily fatigue, distorted sense of smell, or impaired speech patterns.
The onset of Parkinson’s disease typically begins with neurons in the brain dying, which progressively decreases the levels of the hormone dopamine that plays an enormous role in movement; this lack of dopamine results in the early signs of Parkinson’s, which may include changes in handwriting and rigid facial expressions.
Parkinson’s disease is separated into five stages in order to identify proper diagnosis and treatment. Stages one and two range from mild to moderate, covering mostly minimal symptoms and slight changes in movement. Stage three, however, typically marks a turning point in progression for patients due to the disease’s gradual impact on the ability to complete daily tasks. During this stage, individuals with Parkinson’s Disease will most likely begin to require medication and intensive therapy. Stage four may result in a loss of independence and a need for a walker. Patients in stage four, more often than not, progress into stage five, which is the most advanced stage of the disease. During stage five, stiffness in the limbs may make it impossible for patients to walk or stand on their own.
Daily care may be necessary due to the increased risk of confusion, hallucinations, and delusions during the most advanced stages of Parkinson’s. While Parkinson’s Disease is currently incurable and symptoms tend to progressively worsen over time, recognizing symptoms early on and beginning treatment immediately can help patients lead a more successful life.