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Parkinson's Disease and Sexual Problems

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Sexuality is an important part of every person's physical and mental health. When a healthy adult is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, many aspects of his or her physical and mental well-being are often shaken including sexuality.

Because sexuality plays a significant role in a healthy lifestyle, worries often surface for the patient when his or her sexual desires and needs change. With the onset of Parkinson's disease, the development of sexual problems may be frustrating. However, there is hope for the patient with Parkinson's disease in being able to restore sexuality, or improve problems that may develop.

Recommended Related to Parkinson's

Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Usually, the outward symptoms of Parkinson's are distinctive enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis in the office. There is no blood test or brain scan that confirms the diagnosis. But if you don't respond to the drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, it’s possible you may have another type of movement disorder that causes the same type of symptoms. Doing additional tests can help your doctor determine if some other problem is causing your parkinsonian symptoms.

Read the Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

A doctor can help the patient decide on the best course of action to solve the problem and can suggest medications to help alleviate some of the symptoms that may develop.

Why Does Parkinson's Disease Affect Sexuality?

A lowered sexual drive or desire following the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease may be more of a side effect caused by depression than by the disease itself. Many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease are thought to be caused by lowered levels of dopamine in the brain -- a chemical that transmits messages from the brain's "relay center" to its nerve cells, enabling physical movement. It is possible that the dopamine decrease may also cause a lessened drive or interest in sex.

What Other Symptoms Are Linked to Loss of Sex Drive?

While Parkinson's disease often causes tremors and rigidity that contribute to physical pain that could then make sex painful or uncomfortable, men with the disease often suffer from erectile dysfunction.

Because Parkinson's disease negatively impacts the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), it may be difficult for a male to obtain an erection. The male body requires a series of nerve impulses in the brain, spinal cord and penis in order to have an erection.

Problems with these nerve impulses, such as might occur with Parkinson's disease, may result in erectile dysfunction. In addition, the blood circulation to the penis and the muscles in the penis need to be healthy to produce a normal erection. Problems with circulation or muscle function may also contribute to the erectile dysfunction.

Medications and Sexual Dysfunction

Depression medications. Since depression is a common cause of sexual dysfunction and also one of the most common side effects that Parkinson's disease patients may experience, medications are often prescribed. Antidepressants may also cause sexual problems.

If sexual symptoms such as decreased sex drive and/or erectile dysfunction are present, patients should seek help for these symptoms which may be treatable.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on October 11, 2014
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