Men's Sexual Health
Men: What Your Sex Life Says About Your Health
Sex is great until, well, it's not so great. When something goes awry, it's easy to blame being in a bad patch or a bad relationship. Or . . . could your body be trying to tell you something?
"There's an increasing awareness that sex isn't just about quality of life -- sex can be a harbinger of underlying medical conditions," says urologist John Mulhall, director of the Sexual Medicine Program and the Sexual Medicine Research Laboratory at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.
The following ten sex scenes are no fun, but they're worth mentioning to your favorite primary doctor or urologist (the specialist who handles many men's plumbing issues).
Sex scene #1: You're just not interested any more.
It might be: Low testosterone
Lots of things can cause your sex drive to shift into neutral: work stress, falling out of love, lack of sleep. (See also: Sexless After 40? Don't Be!) But what if those things don't apply and you'd still rather count sheep than make love? Or if the sights and touches that once turned you on leave you literally unmoved? You might have a hormone out of whack.
"Testosterone is the most important metabolic hormone for men," Mulhall says. "If it's low, you're at increased risk for osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, and premature death -- and your only symptom may be low libido."
What to do: Get your testosterone level checked with a simple blood test. Make the appointment for before 10 a.m., Mulhall says, when levels are highest. If yours is low, you'll be referred to a urologist or endocrinologist who can help you evaluate treatment options, which include testosterone supplements.
Sex scene #2: You're just not interested -- and you're feeling down, too.
It might be: Depression -- or depression meds
Loss of interest in sex is a classic sign of clinical depression. Yet the treatment for depression can have the same side effect. Talk about a catch-22. Drugs in the SSRI family of antidepressants (including Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) have been found in many studies to zap desire in both men and women. (They can also cause anorgasmia -- the inability to climax.)
What to do: If you haven't been diagnosed with depression and you're feeling low (along with experiencing low libido and other common symptoms of depression, mention all this to a doctor. Clinical depression is highly treatable with talk therapy and medication. If you're currently being treated with an antidepressant, ask your prescribing doctor about switching to a class of drugs less associated with sexual side effects, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin). Ask, too, about taking a "drug holiday" from an SSRI if you're on one; some doctors endorse quitting these meds for a day or two at a time in order to allow libido to bloom.