Around 31% of men experience sexual dysfunction. While for 15% of men, hypoactive sexual desire can be a real problem, published the National Library of Medicine.
What most people don’t realize, however, is that erectile dysfunction (ED) is often the result of thyroid dysfunction.
Studies show that in 71% of men with thyroid issues, 79% had some level of ED problems. When the body doesn’t work properly, the effects are easy to notice in the bedroom. Men experience a drastic decline in sexual desire, which makes intercourse feel uncomfortable and unsatisfying.
If you want to learn how the thyroid is hurting your sex life, you’ve come to the right place. This is a detailed guideline on how a thyroid condition can make its way into the bedroom. Here is all you need to know to get your sex life back on track.
Thyroid Disease and Sexual Health
Sexual dysfunction and thyroid disease go hand in hand. They have a profound impact on the quality of life and intercourse. The hormones that the thyroid gland produces affect every single organ, system, and cell in the human body. That includes pleasure and erotic potential.
When a patient suffers from a thyroid disorder, they are also at risk of developing various sexual dysfunction problems. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause low libido and erectile dysfunction in men.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are affecting a select percentage of the population. Research shows these thyroid disorders are more prevalent among the male population. They are known for causing ejaculatory, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and impaired libido.
Luckily, the problems caused by thyroid dysfunction can be managed after the patient receives proper treatment. Even persistent problems can be controlled with effective sexual dysfunction treatment. But, before you can treat the thyroid problem, you need to know what it is doing to your body. Here are the different ways thyroid problems can hurt your sex life.
1) Pain During Intercourse
To enjoy sex, the body needs lubrication, desire, and arousal. But, when there is something that interferes with these factors, it becomes difficult to experience pleasure. That’s exactly where thyroid disorders, like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, get in the way.
A complex molecular mechanism connects the thyroid with sexual dysfunction in female and male patients. Several reports showed that the thyroid is more than capable of influencing the female and male genitalia’s hormone receptors.
Hyperthyroid and hypothyroid patients are experiencing autonomic dysregulation that consistently impairs their sexual function. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism directly affect the sex hormones through the central pathways and peripheral system. As a result, patients are suffering from drastic sexual dysfunction.
The reason for that is relatively simple. Because of the thyroid disease, the vagina produces less lubrication, which makes sex very painful and unpleasant. Without the necessary lubrication, the vagina becomes extremely dry. Therefore, penetration causes irritation and friction. Those who struggle with poor lubrication can’t get aroused that easily. This makes them feel tense and self-conscious.
2) Delayed or Premature Ejaculation
One NHS study evaluated 500 couples. The goal was to analyze the average ejaculation time. Based on the results, the typical ejaculation time was at around five and a half minutes after starting the intercourse.
With premature ejaculation, it took 1 minute. Reports show that this type of issue often caused distress. The problem is, not everyone was aware that thyroid complications could also cause such results.
Men with hypothyroidism often struggle with delayed ejaculation, while hyperthyroidism increases the chance for premature ejaculation. With hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), the body experiences poor sex drive, mood changes, and fatigue.
Because of that, the body has trouble maintaining an erection. In severe cases, people can experience a negative impact on their testosterone production. Studies show that hypothyroidism primarily impacts the ejaculatory reflex and sexual desire.
When paired with other endocrine disorders (pituitary gland problems), thyroid complications can be a real issue and drastically impair sexual desire and erectile function. That’s why it’s important to stabilize the low testosterone levels as soon as possible.
3) Decline in Sex Drive
According to experts, people with sexual desire disorders struggle with a lack of sexual thoughts and fantasies. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can affect their receptivity or desire for sex, causing anxiety, distress, and problems in their romantic relationships.
Men with thyroid disease have low testosterone. The more the testosterone levels drop, the higher the risk of experiencing poor libido. It’s not uncommon for patients with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism to struggle with exhaustion and depression. Both of these problems can also cause poor sex drive.
Take Graves’ disease, for example. This is the most typical form of hyperthyroidism. It can cause extreme exhaustion that can result in muscle weakness, nervousness, anxiety, and libido loss. Plus, around 10% of patients with Graves disease could experience weight gain, putting even more pressure on their mental status.
Another practical example is thyroid nodules. They can grow large enough to cause neck swelling, breathing, and swallowing difficulties. In some cases, nodules will create extremely high thyroid hormone levels and end up affecting the bloodstream. With a lump in the throat, it becomes incredibly difficult to enjoy any sexual activity. Plus, sometimes, the lump could be a sign of thyroid cancer.
Then you have thyroid autoimmunity. An autoimmune disease causes antibodies to attack the thyroid. The moment these antibodies get confused, they will either turn the thyroid off (and cause Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or turn it on (and cause Graves’ disease). The thyroid antibody forms when the patient’s immune system mistakenly targets the thyroid proteins. This kind of hormone imbalance causes tissue damage, chronic inflammation, and poor quality of life.
4) Erectile Dysfunction
Thyroid and ED are a serious problem. Experts from the International Journal of Impotence studied erectile dysfunction in thyroid patients. They analyzed the thyroid impact on ED patients with diabetes, obesity, and hypothyroidism.
The research aimed to assess the prevalence rate of erectile dysfunction in patients with thyroid problems. By comparing the thyroid statistics to those in patients with diabetes and obesity, scientists came up with a reliable value of erectile dysfunction.
Based on their reports, erectile dysfunction was prevalent in obese individuals at 42%. But, it was more frequent in individuals with thyroid illness, recorded at 59%. Although erectile dysfunction was highly recorded in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients (81%), patients with thyroid problems had a much worse erectile dysfunction score. But, more research is necessary to study the endothelial function in patients with thyroid disorders.
5) Sperm Count
A lack or excess of thyroid hormones can cause changes in testes’ functions. That includes semen abnormalities. Studies indicate that hyperthyroidism is often linked to poor semen density, volume, and motility. While hypothyroidism can reduce the shape and size of the sperm.
Over time, these disorders can decrease the quality of the semen and affect fertility rates. That’s why scientists recommend men check their thyroid if they are struggling with infertility.
It may be a good idea for patients struggling with any type of sexual dysfunction to do a thyroid function test. The doctor can suggest a blood test to analyze the thyroid levels and assess your current health state. You will determine the TSH level (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and see whether you have an under-or over-active thyroid with a blood draw.
- When the TSH is too high, it means you have an underactive thyroid. Your body doesn’t produce the necessary thyroid hormone. This thyroid has above 5.0 mU/l. Detecting the problem early on (or in its mild stages) is called subclinical hypothyroidism.
- If the TSH is too low, it indicates you have an overactive thyroid. The body creates excess hormones that affect your sex drive. This thyroid has under 0.4 mU/l. Thyrotoxicosis is a clinical manifestation of extreme levels of thyroid hormone synthesis and thyroid gland secretion.
- Normal TSH should range between 0.3/0.5 to 3.0/5.0 mU/l.
The same methods can be used for diagnosing postpartum thyroiditis and thyroid peroxidase.
Sexual dysfunction treatment typically begins by changing the thyroid medication or focusing directly on the sexual problem. But, it’s not uncommon for people to focus on both of them. Multiple treatment possibilities can help manage the problem. Some of the most typical options include:
- Thyroid hormone replacement drugs: Levothyroxine is the go-to choice for hypothyroidism. It is a useful thyroid hormone replacement medication. You can find it under the brand name Tirosint, Synthroid, Levothroid, or other. While hyperthyroid patients will opt for antithyroid drugs or thionamides, like propylthiouracil and carbimazole. They can restore normal thyroid function and improve sexual function.
- Sexual stimulation medicine: Products like Levitra and Viagra are efficient ED treatment. Most importantly, they don’t interfere with other thyroid treatments, making them practical alternatives.
- Hormonal treatment: Postmenopausal women struggling with extreme vaginal dryness and painful sex use ospemifene. This is a hormonal treatment tailored towards the female population. It can help with thyroid problems. However, to manage the dryness effectively, women may still need to use an over-the-counter product, such as a vaginal lubricant.
What Happens If Left Untreated?
Do not underestimate thyroid complications. When hyperthyroidism is left untreated, patients can experience a thyroid storm, which could be a life-threatening health issue.
The condition can affect blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate. Some people can also experience infertility, pain in the joints, heart issues, and obesity.
Restoring your pleasure and satisfaction from intercourse is a valuable component of boosting your overall health. Not only will it improve your relationship, but it will also boost your mental status and self-confidence.
If you or your partner is experiencing sexual difficulties from thyroid problems, here are a couple of coping mechanisms that can help.
- Consult a specialist: Book an appointment with a counselor or a therapist who is experienced at dealing with sexual difficulties. A sex therapist can help solve numerous sexual issues, such as poor desire, inability to achieve an orgasm, uncomfortable penetrative sex, etc. Most importantly, they will address the emotional problems that might be related to sexuality. These are key factors for improving your sex life.
- Communicate: Always be open with your partner. No matter what you are dealing with, it’s critical that you express your needs or concerns. Urology reports show that focusing on communication can maximize the outcome. It will make it much easier to find a solution and resolve all those problems-especially when dealing with severe penile dysfunctions.
- Experiment: In many cases, painful sex can be caused by an uncomfortable sex position. Changing the position or using lubricants can ease the discomfort. But, if you or your partner struggle with arousal, you might want to consider using sex toys to get aroused or have an orgasm. By experimenting, you can create a more comfortable environment and enjoy intercourse.
Supporting Thyroid Health
Other than medication or coping mechanisms, you can use diet and lifestyle changes to maintain optimal thyroid function. Although foods and dietary supplements can’t treat thyroid disorders, they can help keep your body in tip-top shape.
Proper dietary iodine is critical for a healthy thyroid, stated Mayo Clinic. Excess iodine can cause hyperthyroidism. When consumed in heavy amounts, soy and other supplements can interfere with thyroid production.
So, it’s critical that you avoid any dietary extremes. Instead, implement enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Opt for fresh products and healthy meals to give the body all the nourishment it needs. Also, try to avoid a toxin-filled environment.
Exposing the body to industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and plastics can put a heavy strain on hormone production. That includes the thyroid gland. Even though everyone’s body is different, it doesn’t mean that you will have a high tolerance. So, minimizing toxin exposure should be your top priority.
Another option is to try any stress-relieving technique. Anything from yoga to stretching can help decrease stress levels and boost a healthy thyroid. The less stressed you are, the easier it is going to be for the system to produce normal hormone levels.
But, if you take hormone medication, you should avoid eating walnuts, calcium supplements, iron supplements, or antacids simultaneously with the drug.
Otherwise, you risk experiencing drug interactions. Foods and supplements such as these are best consumed after or before you take thyroid drugs. They are packed with biotin, which may impact the thyroid hormone. This is something to have in mind when focusing on a healthy diet.
The human body can go through a series of changes. The older we get, the bigger the risk of experiencing various health complications. Thyroid dysfunction is often the one that causes these changes. But, very few people are aware of its impact. It can harm your sexual health in many ways, causing painful intercourse, erection difficulties, poor libido, and more.
It is important that you learn to recognize the imbalance and get the proper treatment. If you suspect thyroid problems, consult with a doctor. They will assess your health state and recommend the best type of treatment. With proper management tactics, you can restore optimal sex life.