Is thyroid disease ruining your sex life?

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Is thyroid disease ruining your sex life?

It certainly is understandable for certain aspects of our lives to possibly have an impact on our libido – depression, lack of sleep, stress, menopause, relationship trouble, or alcohol or drug abuse.  But here’s one you may not have considered – thyroid issues and specifically low thyroid or hypothyroidism.

There can be many concerning symptoms associated with thyroid disease such as weight gain, fatigue or mood changes. But one of the more concerning symptoms is loss of libido or reduced sex drive.  In order to have a healthy libido, it helps to have a healthy thyroid.  When our thyroid is not working up to par, this can spell trouble in the bedroom.  For anyone who is experiencing a lack of desire, it wouldn’t hurt to have your thyroid functioning checked out, especially when undiagnosed and untreated, or insufficiently treated, which could be the reason for sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

How both hypo- and hyperthyroidism affect your sex life

Even though both of these conditions affect the thyroid gland, they have different characteristics.  Hypothyroidism is when our thyroid gland is unable to make enough hormones to function well which affects our body’s metabolism.  In hypothyroidism, the gland’s hormone production slows. This, in turn, slows your metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Hypothyroidism is common, and affects about 4.6 percent of the U.S. population.

As the name suggests, hyperthyroidism occurs when our body makes too much of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triidothyronine (T3), and becomes overactive.  Hyperthyroidism can cause a fast heartbeat, increased appetite, anxiety, sensitivity to heat, or sudden weight loss.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause several major sexual dysfunctions in both men and women, including:

·      A low sex drive or total lack of sexual desire know as low libido

·      An inability to become aroused

·      Difficulty reaching orgasm, slow to orgasm, or an inability to reach orgasm

For men, thyroid conditions can cause:

·      Erectile dysfunction

·      Premature ejaculation

·      Delayed ejaculation – defined as requiring a long period of intercourse in order to ejaculate

A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism had the following statistics on the link between thyroid problems and sexual issues in men:

·      Almost two-thirds of hypothyroid men complained of low libido, erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation

·      Half of hypothyroid men complained of premature ejaculation, and almost one in five men complained of low libido

·      According to the researchers, adequate treatment to return a man to “normal” thyroid function, known as euthyroidism, was found to reverse most sexual symptoms in men.

For women, having thyroid issues can result in:

·      Inadequate lubrication

·      Pain during intercourse

Thyroid-related sexual dysfunction responds well to treatment

The good news for anyone with thyroid issues and their sex life is that most thyroid-related sexual dysfunctions are reversible after starting proper thyroid treatment.  This is why it is important that anyone experiencing sexual dysfunction, but hasn’t yet been diagnosed with thyroid disease, to get a complete thyroid evaluation, including a clinical examination and blood test panel.  The blood test panel needs to include thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (Free T4), free triiodothyronine (Free T3), and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies tests.  These tests will diagnose or rule out a thyroid condition as the cause of sexual dysfunction.

Depending on the healthcare provider’s evaluation, treatment may be recommended which could include the following:

·      Testosterone treatment for both men and women

·      Hormone replacement with estrogen/progesterone for women, especially during or after perimenopause/menopause

·      Vaginal estrogen creams for women to aid in libido and lubrication and to reduce pain

·      Drugs to boost erectile function in men, such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

Other self-care and lifestyle changes both men and women can make to help get sexual functioning back on track include:

·      Reach a healthy body weight – being overweight can affect sex drive and sexual performance and research has shown losing a few pounds can increase libido.  Weight loss also lowers sex hormone-binding globulin which frees up sex-drive boosting testosterone.

·      Have a regular exercise regimen – Exercise helps improve blood flow and hormonal balance while increasing libido and ability to orgasm in both men and women.  All movement is good but aerobic exercise is especially good for releasing endorphins to create a sense of well-being.

·      Adequate sleep – Chronic sleep deprivation can put the brakes on anyone’s sex drive.  Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night.