How to improve Your Sex Life with a Chronic Condition

Learn how to cope with chronic health conditions and get tips for having more enjoyable sex life from 2,200 Alike users who shared their experiences in the Alike Health app.
How to improve Your Sex Life with a Chronic Condition
Written by
Alike Team
Published on
September 22, 2022
"Sex for me is very painful. It’s also so difficult to get myself in the mood. Luckily, my partner is very supportive and helps me find ways to cope.”
Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with a chronic disease or have lived with one for decades, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sex. Learn how to cope with chronic health conditions and get tips for having more enjoyable sex life  from 2,200 Alike users who shared their experiences in the Alike Health app.

We’ve asked Alike users who suffer from different chronic conditions how its affected their sex lives and this is what they said.
How has your condition affected your sex life?

Here are a few common issues chronic disease patients face while engaging in sexual acts. 

Physical pain and discomfort

While some may enjoy pain during sex, it’s not too exciting when it’s unbearable and halts any potential pleasure. 

"I still enjoy sex, but it is always painful, sometimes excruciatingly. Luckily, I have an amazing partner who has helped to learn and understand my needs so my pain is very much more bearable.”
"I’m still going strong, but I’m limited in positions for sure. My hips aren’t too good! Sometimes we have to take breaks, but it doesn’t keep anything from being fun.”
According to Professor Shalev, pain during sex with a chronic disease can result from: 
1. Vaginismus
2. Dyspareunia
3. Endometriosis
4. Skin conditions
5. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
While taking pain medications before sex may reduce or limit discomfort, if pain persists, you may need to speak with your doctor and try other types of intimacy.

Lack of or reduced sexual arousal

"My sex drive has become very low. My hormones are all over the place and cause a lack of sex drive, and my endometriosis causes pain.”
Most sexual acts begin with some form of arousal. Desire and arousal are the first two steps of the sexual response cycle, followed by plateau, orgasm, and resolution. However, for people with a chronic disease, sexual arousal can be affected by diagnosis and subsequent lifestyle changes, leading to possible sexual dysfunction.
"I just don’t have the energy a lot of the time, and if my sleep schedule gets disrupted it takes me days if not weeks to feel better.”

Sexual dysfunction can be expressed as:

* Low testosterone
* Delayed or slowed ejaculation
* Erectile dysfunction
* Premature ejaculation
In addition, specific treatments for chronic diseases can affect the sexual response cycle. For example, medications to treat chronic pain, depression, or high blood pressure, may contribute to a low sex drive. 

A few medications that are known to increase sexual dysfunction in patients include:

* Certain antidepressants
* Heart failure medications
* Blood pressure medications
* Opioids
* Chemotherapy
* Benzodiazepines 

Always speak with your doctor to discuss medications that may affect your sex life. 

Body insecurities

Some people with chronic diseases may face body image issues due to their health condition. These insecurities, which can be physical scars or weight gain, can be heightened during intimate moments. As a result, people with a chronic disease dealing with body image issues may feel less attractive, have low self-confidence, and not feel sexually satisfied. 

A few additional common issues chronic disease patients face while engaging in sexual acts could be planned sex and distractions during the sex.

Tips for having a more enjoyable sex life with a chronic disease

With a better understanding of how living with a chronic illness can affect your sex life, here are a few tips for enjoyable intimate experiences.

Be open with your partner

You must always try to communicate with your partner or partners about your health concerns, especially regarding intimacy. If they genuinely care for you, they’ll be understanding and adopt new methods to ensure you’re feeling comfortable during sex. In addition, having this conversation can be an excellent way to discover new ways to make sex fun. 

Avoid tobacco and alcohol before or during sex

Before engaging in sexual acts, don’t consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Most may already know that mixing alcohol with sex is never great. Tobacco can also pose issues, as nicotine, the substance within tobacco, can narrow blood vessels. When this happens, it lessens the blood flow to the genitals. 

Take pain medicine before having sex

As mentioned earlier, if you’re experiencing pain during sex, you may want to take medication at least 30 minutes to an hour before. Medications may help to limit feelings of pain and discomfort, making your sex life more enjoyable. 

Play mind games 

"Playing mind games or taking extra time in foreplay can really make sex fun and in ways, a lot less physical! It’s given us a realm to be intimate with each other but not always physical.”
Mind games or foreplay before sex are great ways to be intimate without enduring physical pain. In addition, playing mind games with your partner can increase your libido, making sex more exciting. 

Use toys

"What helps a lot for us is toys! Typically when we have sex, I use a vibrator. That helps me feel in control which makes me feel more relaxed and safe. For me, having something else to focus on (e.g., a sensation or object) is helpful.”
Toys are always an excellent way to spice things up in the bedroom. They’re great for foreplay and various sexual acts. Visit adult stores in-person or online to find toys that best fit your needs.

Join a chronic disease community to get advice

While you may have family and friends as your support system, they may not relate to your challenges with a chronic disease. Explore in-person or online communities like Alike Health designed for people with chronic illnesses to share their stories and gain advice from others. 
Check out the rest of the responses from our users on the topic in this discussion post.

If you need more advice tailored to chronic disease patients, check out the Alike Health app to join a community of people sharing the same medical characteristics.

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