Love Doctors: Reignite Your Spark
February is an ideal time to consider how matters of the heart relate to your health, and physical intimacy is a big part of that. Men and women both experience medical issues that can disrupt their relationships, but SLUCare physicians offer effective ways to restore healthy balance to your love life.
“The two most common issues I see in women are low libido and painful intercourse,” says SLUCare obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Becky Kaufman Lynn, who practices at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. “The two can be related, and both can be caused by a number of things, so it’s important to have a thorough and open conversation with your doctor about treating them.”
This can be a difficult issue to bring up, but it’s often a fairly simple one to correct.”SLUCare gynecologist Dr. Becky Lynn
Lynn says low libido in females may be due to aging, stress, anxiety, relationship problems or medical conditions like diabetes or cancer. She says there are a number of treatment options. Painful intercourse can occur when vaginal tissues become less lubricated and elastic during menopause, causing dryness and discomfort. Lynn says there are some relatively new drugs and vaginal hormones that can restore the tissues to a more premenopausal condition. “Many women aren’t aware that vaginal dryness and painful sex can be due to menopause,” she notes. “And their partners may assume the problem is a lack of physical attraction, which can damage the relationship unnecessarily.”
SLUCare urologist Dr. Clay McDonough says men also have effective options for treating sexual issues. Some patients with erectile dysfunction (ED) can benefit from surgical placement of an inflatable penile prosthesis, explains McDonough, who sees patients at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. “The device works on demand,” he notes. “The patient squeezes a small pump that sits below the scrotum, and saline moves into the implanted chambers from a reservoir in the lower abdomen. Then he presses a release valve when done. We think of the procedure as replacing the body’s ‘inner hydraulics,’ and the area doesn’t look any different cosmetically once the device is implanted. Patient and partner satisfaction after the procedure tends to be well above 90 percent.” Other effective treatments also are available, he notes.
McDonough adds that men’s sexual complications can be caused by a number of factors, so honest doctor-patient communication is key. “ED normally is a vascular problem,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s due to conditions like diabetes or heart disease that may go undiagnosed. It also may be related to prostate surgery, cancer treatment or hormonal influences.” He notes that while women usually keep a regular schedule of gynecologic care, men may not have the same motivation to see a doctor each year, so their sexual dysfunction often goes untreated. “Some men tell us they had a physical in high school, and the next thing they knew, they were 65 and suffering from ED,” McDonough says. “The condition often is a gateway to get them to see a doctor regularly, screen for other problems and improve their overall health.”
Sexual dysfunction is a common problem, and patients should never be afraid to ask for assistance, Lynn notes. “It helps to have an understanding physician,” she says. “This can be a difficult issue to bring up, but it’s often a fairly simple one to correct.”
By: Julia M. Johnson