Sexuality in Later Life
What Causes Sexual Problems? continued...
Joint pain due to arthritis can make sexual
contact uncomfortable. Joint replacement surgery and drugs may relieve this
pain. Exercise, rest, warm baths, and changing the position or timing of sexual
activity can be helpful.
Chronic pain. In addition to arthritis, pain that continues
for more than a month or comes back on and off over time can be caused by other
bone and muscle conditions, shingles, poor blood circulation, or blood vessel
problems. This discomfort can, in turn, lead to sleep problems, depression,
isolation, and difficulty moving around. These can interfere with intimacy
between older people. Chronic pain does not have to be part of growing older
and can often be treated.
Diabetes. Many men with diabetes do not have sexual
problems, but this is one of the few illnesses that can cause impotence. In
most cases medical treatment can help.
Heart disease. Narrowing and hardening of the arteries
known as atherosclerosis can change blood vessels so that blood does not flow
freely. This can lead to trouble with erections in men, as can high blood
pressure (hypertension). Some people who have had a heart attack are afraid
that having sex will cause another attack. The chance of this is very low. Most
people can start having sex again 3 to 6 weeks after their condition becomes
stable following an attack, if their doctor agrees. Always follow your doctor's
Incontinence. Loss of bladder control or leaking of urine
is more common as we grow older, especially in women. Stress incontinence
happens during exercise, coughing, sneezing, or lifting, for example. Because
of the extra pressure on your abdomen during sex, incontinence might cause some
people to avoid sex. The good news is that this can usually be treated.
Stroke. The ability to have sex is rarely damaged by a
stroke, but problems with erections are possible. It is unlikely that having
sex will cause another stroke. Someone with weakness or paralysis caused by a
stroke might try using different positions or medical devices to help them
continue having sex.