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By DaVita social workers Denea Hart and Rachel Thomas
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician.
You may have been spending most of your time and energy focusing on how chronic kidney disease (CKD) and dialysis have affected your daily activities such as work, household chores, diet and finances. You also may have been dealing with treatment difficulties, medication management and physical limitations. Concerns about body image and changes in your levels of sexual interest and activity may fall at the bottom of your list of priorities; however, sex and sexuality are an important part of your overall well-being.
Actually, we are talking about much more than just the physical act of sex. Even those who are not sexually active may have difficulties related to self-esteem, body image, emotional affection, gender identity, family roles and communication, just to name a few. It is important to know you’re not alone. Listed below are several sexuality issues, factors and barriers faced by patients with kidney disease.
Most sexual issues fall under two categories: physical or emotional.
The good news: you can get help to work out sexual issues. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask your social worker for help. Therapy can focus on improving communication with loved ones and increasing their awareness of how the person with kidney disease feels because of the physical and emotional changes from CKD. Sharing individual sexual needs and difficulties with a partner can create understanding and in some ways more intimacy. Stress reduction and coping skills are also important in resuming not only a healthy sex life but also your overall welfare. You also may want to talk to your doctor, as your medication or a medical condition could be a factor. You doctor may be able to make changes that will help you.
Here is some helpful information about how to retain your sexuality after being diagnosed with CKD. Your social worker can assist you with questions or issues you might have or refer you to available resources in your community. Once again, it’s important to remember, you are not alone.
Medication treatments may be appropriate for some people who struggle with sexual performance. Therapies may include hormone replacement, antidepressants, performance-enhancing drugs or simply making a change in a medication you are already taking. Any medicines used to treat sexual dysfunction issues should always be prescribed by a physician who is familiar with your medical history.
Some people find it difficult to talk about sex. Many religions and cultures teach that sex is only permitted in marriage, and even then it is seldom discussed. Sexuality is an important part of a person’s total well-being. Even though you may be embarrassed to talk about your sexual feelings or performance, professionals such as doctors and social workers are trained to help you with any issues you may have regarding sex. You may be hesitant to talk to a healthcare professional about such personal issues, but know that they are there to help you live life to the fullest.
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