Sex?

I know, I know. When you see that question on an application, you want to answer ‘yes,’ but you’re only given the choice of male or female. Well, at least that’s my experience. Okay, got that out of the way.

Way back in 2011, the following was included in my first Chronic Kidney Disease book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. This was way before the website, Facebook page, the blog, the Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Way before the articles, radio shows, and interviews, book signings, and talks about CKD. Come to think of it, this was way before SlowItDownCKD was born.

I haven’t found too much about sex that’s different from the problems of non-CKD patients although with this disease there may be a lower sex drive accompanied by a loss of libido and an inability to ejaculate. Usually, these problems start with an inability to keep an erection as long as usual. The resulting impotency has a valid physical, psychological or psycho-physical cause.

Some of the physical causes of impotence, more recently referred to as Erectile Dysfunction [E.D.] for a CKD patient could be poor blood supply since there are narrowed blood vessels all over the body. Or maybe it’s leaky blood vessels. Of course, it could be a hormonal disturbance since the testicles may be producing less testosterone and the kidneys are in charge of hormones….

While E.D. can be caused by renal disease, it can also be caused by diabetes and hypertension. All three are of importance to CKD patients. Sometimes, E.D. is caused by the medications for hypertension, depression and anxiety. But, E.D. can also be caused by other diseases, injuries, surgeries, prostate cancer or a host of other conditions and bodily malfunctions. Psychologically, the problem may be caused by stress, low self-esteem, even guilt to name just a few of the possible causes….

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated. As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem. But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual….

Common sense tells us that sex or intimacy is not high on your list of priorities when you’ve just been recently diagnosed….

Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too. And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful….

Well, what’s changed since I was writing What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease? in 2010?

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sexuality now includes the following on their website:

It’s important to remember that people with kidney failure can have healthy marriages and meaningful relationships. They can fall in love, care for families, and be sexual. Staying intimate with those you love is important. It’s something everyone needs.

Many people think that sexuality refers only to sexual intercourse. But sexuality includes many things, like touching, hugging, or kissing. It includes how you feel about yourself, how well you communicate, and how willing you are to be close to someone else.

There are many things that can affect your sexuality if you have kidney disease or kidney failure — hormones, nerves, energy levels, even medicine. But there are also things you and your healthcare team can do to deal with these changes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get help from a healthcare professional.

DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/sexuality-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4895 also offers advice:

Once again, it’s important to remember, you are not alone.

There are no limits with regard to sexual activities you may engage in as a patient with renal disease, as long as activity does not place pressure or tension on the access site, causing damage. (Me: This is for advanced CKD.)

If you are sexually active, practicing safe sex and/or using birth control are needed, even if you think you may be physically unable to have children.

Activities such as touching, hugging and kissing provide feelings of warmth and closeness even if intercourse is not involved. Professional sex therapists can recommend alternative methods as well.

Keeping an open mind and having a positive attitude about yourself and your sexuality may lower the chances of having sexual problems.

There are both medical and emotional causes for sexual dysfunction. The reason for your dysfunction can be determined through a thorough physical exam in addition to an assessment of your emotional welfare and coping skills.

Relaxation techniques, physical exercise, writing in a journal and talking to your social worker or a therapist can help you to feel better about your body image and/or sexual dysfunction.

Resuming previous activities, such as dining out or traveling, as a couple or single adult, can be helpful.

Provide tokens of affection or simple acts of kindness to show you care.

Communicate with your partner or others about how you feel.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada at file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/Sexuality%20and%20CKD.pdf, these may be the causes of sexual problems in CKD.

Fatigue is a major factor. Any chronic illness is tiring, and chronic kidney disease, which is often accompanied by anemia and a demanding treatment, practically guarantees fatigue.

Depression is another common issue. Almost everyone experiences periods of depression, and one of the symptoms of depression is loss of interest in sexual intimacy.

Medications can also affect one’s ability or desire to have intercourse. Since there may be other medications which are just as effective without the side effect of loss of sexual function or desire, talk to your doctor about your pills.

Feelings about body image Having a peritoneal catheter, or a fistula or graft, may cause some people to avoid physical contact for fear of feeling less attractive or worrying about what people think when they look at them. (Me: Again, this is for late stage CKD.)

Some diseases, such as vascular disease and diabetes, can lead to decreased blood flow in the genital area, decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness and impotence.

It looks like the information about CKD and sexuality hasn’t changed that much, but it does seem to be more available these days.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Sex Sells… Well, It Keeps Us Interested Anyway

National Kidney MonthHappy Monday, blog writing day, my favorite day of the week.  You know, this is the third week of National Kidney Month which brings quite a bit of kidney disease awareness activity with it. For example, this past Friday and Saturday, The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona held its 17th annual conference in partnership with The CadioRenal Society of America.

I attended on Friday, renal day, since Saturday – cardio day – was a bit too over my head. I had the good luck to run right into Dr. James Ivie, Director of Patient Services, as soon as I entered the building. After I apologized for not having a book for him this year (SlowItDowCKD 2015 is available in digital, but the print version won’t be ready until later on this month.), he told me how very successful the conference was this year, easily surpassing the number of attendees from the year before.

He was so right. I could see for myself that the place was crowded and people were talking. More than one vendor was more interested in my CKD writing than in selling me their product. I was surprised, but delighted. Then I started attending the sessions and found the same with other attendees and, again, was delighted.Kidney Arizona

But what delighted me most was how much I understood.  You see, the more I understood, the more I could bring back to you. As usual, presenter styles varied from the one who simply read the statistics on her slideshow graphs for us to the one who told anecdotes, asked for audience participation, and had us both laughing and highly interested.

Her topic?  Enhancing Intimacy and Sexuality. Her name? Robin Siegel. She is a licensed clinical social worker. Learn.org at http://learn.org/articles/What_Does_LCSW_Stand_For.html tells us “An LCSW, or licensed clinical social worker, is a professional who provides counseling and psychosocial services to clients in clinical settings.”

Ms. Siegel was actually presenting about how nephrology staff can be helpful in these areas, but quite a bit of her information was also useful for Chronic Kidney Disease patients themselves… or those that write about CKD.

Hmmm, her ideas sounded familiar to me. Sure enough, it seems I had been thinking along the same lines when I wrote the following in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.

Book Cover“I haven’t found too much about sex that’s different from the problems of non-CKD patients although with this disease there may be a lower sex drive accompanied by a loss of libido and an inability to ejaculate. Usually, these problems start with an inability to keep an erection as long as usual.  The resulting impotency has a valid physical, psychological or psycho-physical cause…..

The usual remedies for E.D. can be used with CKD patients, too, but you need to make certain your urologist and your nephrologists work together, especially if your treatment involves changing medications, hormone replacement therapy or an oral medication like Viagra. …

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated.  As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem.  But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual.”

Ms. Siegel added to this by talking about possible medical intervention traumas, cultural values, and gender issues. What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease was written in 2010, although it was published in 2011. Transgender was hardly, if ever, mentioned in the news – medical or otherwise. It was almost the same for homosexuality. It’s a different world in 2016. We talk openly about sexuality. Well, let’s say many of us do. I really liked the way this presenter made it clear that these are simply part of some patients’ lives and must be treated respectfully, especially when dealing specifically with their sexuality.IMG_2867

We agreed about intimacy, too. More from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too.        And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful….  The best advice I received in this area was make love even if you don’t want to.  Magic.”

Those last thoughts are purely mine, but Ms. Siegel did talk about the snuggling and hugging from a patient point of view: allowing, giving, getting.

Something else she introduced was the different cultural values in our present day society. That’s another thing that wasn’t as publicly prevalent as it is today. For example, certain cultures will not permit a male doctor if the patient is female. If you belong to one of these cultures, you can simply ask for a female nephrologist in the practice or for a referral to another practice with female nephrologists if yours doesn’t have any. (What???  In this day and age!!!!) According to one of my Muslim friends, there is a list of female doctors, including specialists, available in her community.

Other cultures will not allow eye contact. This is important for you to let your nephrologist know about so that he or she will not think you are avoiding topics if this is part of your culture. Sometimes written material such as handouts and pamphlets can allow you access to the same information you would have been told, too.

It seemed to me that Robin Siegel was making clear that there is no problem that can’t be attended to by your nephrologist or his/her staff – even sex and intimacy – with just a bit of adapting to whatever the patient’s (Oh, that means you and me.) sexuality and culture.

IMG_1398

I have been receiving all kinds of laudatory comments about The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 since SlowItDownCKD 2015 was published in digital last week. I like how that works: publish a new book and there’s renewed interest in your others. Feel free to write reviews on any and all of my four CKD books.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sexy!

IMG_2867Sometimes as you age, you find that sex is not that important… or, at least, the hanging from the chandeliers kind isn’t. *sigh* Add to the age factor that you and/or your partner may have physical limitations or be taking medication that impedes indulging as often and as fervently as you used to. *sigh*sigh* Now add your Chronic Kidney Disease to this equation. *sigh*sigh*sigh*

Does this mean you’re doomed to a life of fervent hugging and kissing and no more? Not at all, my friends, not at all.

Let’s take a look at what I had to say (oh, all right, write) about the glorious, yet somehow still taboo, topic of sex for CKD patients. Those of you Book Coverwith a print copy of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will find this begins on page 100. If you have the digital version, do a word search for ‘sex.’ It’ll be the third finding on the search.

I haven’t found too much about sex that’s different from the problems of non-CKD patients although with this disease there may be a lower sex drive accompanied by a loss of libido and an inability to ejaculate.  Usually, these problems start with an inability to keep an erection as long as usual.  The resulting impotency has a valid physical, psychological or psycho-physical cause.

Some of the physical causes of impotence, more recently referred to as Erectile Dysfunction [E.D.] for a CKD patient could be poor blood supply since there are narrowed blood vessels all over the body.  Or maybe it’s leaky blood vessels.  Of course, it could be a hormonal disturbance since the testicles may be producing less testosterone and the kidneys are in charge of hormones. Possibly, you’re tired from CKD induced anemia.  I’ve just mentioned a few possibilities. The silver lining is that there are almost as many treatments as there are causes.

While E.D. can be caused by renal disease, it can also be caused by diabetes and hypertension. All three are of importance to CKD patients. Sometimes, E.D. is caused by the medications for hypertension, depression and anxiety.  But, E.D. can also be caused by other diseases, injuries, surgeries, prostate cancer or a host of other conditions and bodily malfunctions. Psychologically, the problem may be caused by stress, low self-esteem, even guilt to name just a few of the possible causes.

blood pressure 300dpi jpgThe usual remedies for E.D. can be used with CKD patients, too, but you need to make certain your urologist and your nephrologists work together, especially if your treatment involves changing medications, hormone replacement therapy or an oral medication like Viagra. There are other treatments not mentioned here….

Sometimes, the treatment is as simple as counseling and the cessation of smoking and alcohol.  Hmmmm, as CKD patients, we’ve already been advised to stop smoking and drinking.  This is another reason for male CKD patients to do so.

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated.  As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem.  But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse [It’s become clear since the book was published in 2011 that men also may suffer from these conditions]. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual.

Some remedies for women are the same as those for men.  I discovered through my research that vaginal lubricants and technique, routine, and environment changes when making love, warm baths, massage, and vibrators can help. Again, there are other, more medical treatments.

Common sense tells us that sex or intimacy is not high on your list of priorities when you’ve just been recently diagnosed.  I was obsessed with my [e.g. premature and unnecessary] revulsion of dialysis and needed to hear over and over again that it was a couple of decades too early to worry about this.  I was also tired and didn’t know why, just worried that I would always need an afternoon rest period.… Then I discovered that vaginal strep B can occur in women over 60 with CKD.  Luckily for me, if you catch it and treat it early on, it’s just an infection that you take antibiotics to kill.  If you don’t treat it early, you just may be looking at some serious consequences.

Since we’re in the early stages of CKD, chances are the sexual problem is not physical other than being tired.  I never talked to my nephrologist about sex because I felt there was no reason to, and I had a partner who was willing to work around my rest periods until I had the energy.  But, I sleepam convinced, that if I ever do feel I have reason, I would talk to him. I’m older and prefer women doctors for the most part especially when it comes to private matters but this man is the specialist who knows far more than I do about this disease I am struggling to prevent from progressing.  There is a point when you realize your life is more important than not being embarrassed.

Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too.  And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful.  You’ve got to keep in mind that some CKD patients never have sexual problems, no change in frequency and depth of desire and no impairment in the act itself.  This is not the time to make yourself the textbook case of the CKD patient who suffers sexually because of her disease. The best advice I received in this area was make love even if you don’t want to.  Magic.

I wrote that five years ago and very little has changed. You’ll see that I added an update in brackets and omitted outdated information.  Otherwise, my advice is the same.  But keep in mind that I am not a doctor and have never claimed to be one. Speak to your nephrologist if you feel your sex life is being hampered by your CKD.

Check The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2 to see if they have more information about sex and our disease.IMG_1398

Wow!  I keep the blog to about 1,000 words and I’m already over.  It’s just as well, we’re off to find some delicious candles and add some sexy music to the iPod… just in case we’re in the mood sometime soon, you understand.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!