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.
Parkinson's disease mostly affects older people but can also occur in younger adults. The symptoms are the result of the gradual degeneration of nerve cells in the portion of the midbrain that controls body movements. The first signs are likely to be barely noticeable -- a feeling of weakness or stiffness in one limb, or a fine trembling of one hand when it is at rest. Eventually, the shaking (tremor) worsens and spreads, muscles become stiffer, movements slow down, and balance and coordination...
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.