Ulcerative Colitis and ED
There are a variety of medical conditions that are linked to ED: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, smoking and ulcerative colitis (UC). As it turns out, yes, ulcerative colitis is often linked to ED.
Though it is difficult to pinpoint exact numbers, researchers believe that about 50% of men and 25% of women with UC also have some type of sexual dysfunction. That being said, a healthy sex life is a normal part of a healthy relationship. Even if you experience ED, there are things that you can do to improve your sex life.
What is the Link Between Ulcerative Colitis and Erectile Dysfunction?
Researchers aren’t quite sure what the link between UC and ED are, but they have some theories.
Poor Body Image
There are several reasons that people with UC experience poor body image. Side effects from medication that may cause weight gain and having an ostomy bag because of a necessary surgical procedure are two of the most common reasons for poor body image.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are extremely common in those with UC, likely because those with UC are dealing with a chronic, inflammatory condition. Having depression and anxiety is also linked to increased incidences of ED.
Poor libido can go hand-in-hand with having a poor body image, depression and anxiety. Medications that are used to treat UC and depression and anxiety can also lead to poor libido.
One unfortunate side effect of UC is malnutrition. This occurs because the gastrointestinal system is not able to use nutrients to their full potential. When malnutrition occurs, exhaustion can occur, which contributes to ED.
Side Effects from Surgery
Though it is rare, surgical procedures that may be required to treat UC can cause ED. For example, when the surgery team needs to create a J-pouch there is a possibility that organ damage can occur, which can lead to nervous system issues, and ultimately lead to ED.
What Can You Do?
Treating UC and ED that occurs concurrently may require a multifaceted approach. It can require both medical and lifestyle modifications
Speak With Your Healthcare Provider
Before doing anything, it is extremely important to have a frank discussion with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may have a valid explanation for why you are experiencing ED.
Barring any obvious reasons for ED, there are treatment options available. They may also have ideas for lifestyle modifications that are beyond the scope of this article.
Speak With Your Partner
With ulcerative colitis and erectile dysfunction, it is extremely important to have a frank discussion with your partner. Allowing your partner to understand the ins and outs of UC as well as why you may be experiencing ED is extremely important because it can reduce frustration at a - ahem - heightened moment.
It may be helpful to seek the assistance of a therapist or a sex therapist to help with explaining ED and other sexual issues to your partner.
Get UC Under Control
Though getting UC under control may be easier said than done, it is extremely important to take medications exactly as prescribed. It is also important to care for any ostomies as recommended by your medical team. If you are caring for your UC as recommended, there is a higher likelihood of remission, which may mean a better sex life.
It can be difficult to be spontaneous about sex when you have UC. This is more likely to occur during remission.
During times when UC is not under control, it is still possible to have a great sex life, it just may require some planning. This may mean making sure that you go to the bathroom before sex. As you know, it can be difficult to determine whether you need to use the bathroom or if it is gas; attempting to use the toilet before can minimize interruptions.
If you have an ostomy, emptying the bag before sex can be extremely helpful. Planning may mean that you are able to apply a deodorized bag if desired and approved by your medical team.
Take Mental Health Medications as Prescribed
If you are prescribed medications to treat depression or anxiety, it is important to take them as prescribed. Though we know that some of these medications can reduce libido, it is also possible that treating depression and anxiety can have the inverse effect, by reducing feelings that can lead to stress, tension and inadequacy.
When All Else Fails
Even when following your medical team's advice, sometimes other treatment options may be required. Your healthcare team can prescribe medications to assist with ED such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. A urologist can also prescribe treatments such as penile implants and injections and recommend options such as penis pumps and erection rings.