The Effects Of Lyme Disease On Sexual Health
Low libido and Lyme disease
One of the primary hormones produced by the body in response to stress is cortisol. It is produced in the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. We experience an energy boost from cortisol, which also has anti-inflammatory effects.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline are quickly released in times of extreme stress. Cortisol increases once these hormone levels reach their maximum and start to fall. When a stressor persists, cortisol levels stay high, supplying energy and reducing inflammation. A person's cortisol level will eventually crash if the stressor is severe enough, persists for a long period, or is added to other stressors that are already present. This is known as adrenal insufficiency. Low energy, heightened inflammation, and pain are some of the symptoms.
Cholesterol is the principal constituent of cortisol. Additionally, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are all made of cholesterol. Cortisol can be considered a "survival" hormone because it is a stress hormone.
Our "sex" hormones are testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. The body trades "sex" for "survival" when under stress. The "cortisol theft" is a process through which cholesterol is used instead of sex hormones to produce cortisol. Fatigue, a lack of drive, depression, decreased libido, and reduced exercise tolerance are all symptoms of low sex hormone production.
The psychological and/or emotional pressures in their lives are well known to many people. The body also releases cortisol in response to various physical stresses. Blood sugar fluctuations, inflammatory foods, leaky gut, excessive exercise, a buildup of metallic and nonmetallic environmental waste, and insufficient restorative sleep are a few examples of these.
Chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, are frequently disregarded as a source of bodily stress. In the beginning, they frequently function invisibly and go unnoticed. The body is being strained by a chronic infection, even if a person is not aware of it. They eventually enter a state of adrenal insufficiency, which initiates the cortisol theft.
A persistent infection's stress extends beyond its bodily manifestations. It negatively affects the mental and emotional realms and interpersonal connections.
This affects relationships with partners in addition to a person's connection with themselves. As one partner gradually assumes the role of caretaker, the relationship may change. It's common to miss the caregiver's support in circumstances like this.
This condition is possibly associated not only with persistent infections but also with other chronic disorders. Finding short- and long-term solutions to the problem of mental and emotional symptoms is beneficial. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks, with early signs including tiredness, aches in the joints, and, in some cases, a rash like a bull's eye. Early diagnosis enables antibiotic treatment and a complete recovery. However, if you don’t get treated because Lyme disease is frequently misdiagnosed because it resembles many other ailments, there could be repercussions like memory issues, paralysis, and persistent joint inflammation. Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome refers to symptoms that people with Lyme disease may have following treatment.
Studies claim that Lyme disease can affect your sexual and reproductive health, particularly if it occurs chronically. According to studies reported in the Journal of Investigative Medicine in 2014, Lyme disease can be passed during sexual intercourse from one person to another. Women with Lyme disease frequently have the illness-causing bacteria in their vaginal secretions, but men less frequently have the bugs in their semen. According to Dr. Christine Green, a California-based specialist in Lyme disease, it's plausible that Lyme illness could be sexually transmitted because the bacteria have been detected in sexual fluids. However, there is no proof of transmission, either because it is not sexually transmitted, the studies are expensive and contentious, or there is no universally accepted test to prove active Lyme disease. This can interfere with relationships with partners and family members while addressing the core causes of disease, which change more slowly.
Most patients claim a reduction in libido and general sexual function. Although some patients claim that their sexual desire and sexual function remain normal, others claim that their libido has increased. One of these patients reported having a significantly higher libido but was disappointed that being touched or hugged hurt because of the numerous persistent Lyme disease symptoms. Some people link heightened libido to hypnagogic hallucinations. Two years ago, a patient with a similar condition was described in a medical journal. If left alone, she exhibited sexual obsessions, sexual hallucinations, and a propensity to compulsively masturbate for 18 hours a day in a dreamlike state.
Following the onset of chronic Lyme disease, some individuals develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder with sexual obsessions, compulsions, intrusive imagery, and vivid dreams. Particularly intriguing, a small number of patients have claimed that sexual imagery has changed. There can occasionally be a shift to more aggressive sexual themes. This thus occasionally triggers sexual behavior.
Could Borrelia burgdorferi, other infectious illnesses, or altered patterns of sexual arousal sometimes change a person's sexual orientation or lead to gender dysphoria? There is evidence that a number of different parasites, including Wolbachia, Spiroplasma, Rickettsia, and Microsporidia, disrupt sexual functioning. Are there any circumstances in which B. burgdorferi infections that start in childhood may affect sexual development? Is infectious disease one of the many things that could influence how people develop sexually? The sexual interest of adults tends to drop when their sexual imagery changes because most adults find the changes upsetting. Some people do, however, occasionally make these dreams real.
The effects of Lyme disease on sexual health in men and women
- Fertility: Patients unexpectedly frequently lament their inability to conceive. Infertility could be more prevalent in those with chronic Lyme disease.
- A few patients who have had the infection for more than 10 years have complained of genital atrophy. The penis and testicles have been known to atrophy in men, a condition that can be cured by IV antibiotics. Females complain about anorgasmia, painful erections, and inadequate vaginal lubrication. One breast atrophied in a female patient.
- Genital anesthesia: Occasionally, some individuals report losing or experiencing pain in their genitalia. This symptom has also been observed in a few patients with chronic fatigue.
- Orgasm-induced migraines are rare, but they do happen occasionally in people with persistent Lyme disease.
- Nipple lymphocytomas have been documented in Europe.
- Menstrual irregularity is a typical symptom that affects 50% of individuals who are menstruating.
- Some patients report swollen breasts, breast pain, and lactation.
- Premenstrual syndrome: There is a clear propensity for the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease to worsen during this time.
In addition to these Lyme disease symptoms, there are a number of other symptoms, such as exhaustion, chronic pain, melancholy, paranoia, hypervigilance, mood swings, low frustration tolerance, temper outbursts, apathy, etc. that have an indirect effect on sexual functioning. These emotional disorders frequently drive their lovers away. It is hardly surprising that many people with chronic Lyme disease report marital conflict.
The natural male equivalent of menopause, known as andropause, starts as early as 30 years of age and is characterized by a state of falling DHEA and testosterone levels. When a man has chronic Lyme disease, the hypothalamus-pituitary axis suffers from severe malfunction as a result of ongoing inflammation and infection, which ultimately results in less androgen steroid hormone production.
Signs of low DHEA and testosterone levels, apart from reduced libido:
- reduced energy
- reduced muscular strength
- stress is difficult to manage
- inability to pay attention
- being unable to sustain an erection
- bad memory
- a lack of multitasking
- poor endurance
- gaining weight
- risk for autoimmune conditions, cancer, heart conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity
What studies say
A pilot study was conducted comparing the decrease in sexual drive in a group of patients with Lyme disease with a group of matched control participants. The secondary goal was to determine whether urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction is related to loss of libido in patients with Lyme disease.
Direct questions about libido loss were asked to a group of 16 serologically positive patients with Lyme disease and 18 control participants.
The two groups were matched considering age, sex, body mass index, and mean arterial blood pressure. None of the 34 participants were taking any drugs that might impair sexual libido or had undergone genitourinary tract surgery in the past. Eight (50%) of the 16 patients with Lyme disease showed no reduction in libido, whereas none of the 18 control participants showed any reduction. No statistically significant link was observed between libido loss and urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction in the Lyme disease patient group.
Urinary incontinence and significant morbidity are linked to urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction, which can have an effect on a patient's social, psychological, occupational, domestic, physical, and sexual lives. Additionally, according to Yip et al., women with detrusor dysfunction or urodynamic stress incontinence had much worse marital relationships and significantly less sexual pleasure than healthy, matched control women.
It has been recently confirmed in a thorough controlled investigation that urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction is associated with Lyme disease (borreliosis). In addition, Kim et al. recently described a 32-year-old patient with Lyme disease who experienced fast-progressing bilateral ptosis, dysphagia, spastic paraparesis, and difficulties urinating. Borrelia spirochaetes, which can penetrate the skin and produce erythema migrans and issues with the musculoskeletal system (Lyme arthritis), cardiovascular system (Lyme carditis), and nerve system (Lyme neuroborreliosis), is the cause of Lyme disease, a systemic arthropod-borne zoonosis. No studies have been published on the connection between Lyme disease and libido.
It was predicted that Lyme disease is connected with decreased sexual drive because it is linked to urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction, which is linked to sexual dysfunction and may have an effect on the neurological system.
By conducting the first systematic study to evaluate the loss of sexual libido between a group of patients with Lyme disease and a group of matched control participants, the objective was to test our hypothesis. Studying the connection between libido loss and signs of urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction was the secondary goal. In the small group examined, this pilot study reveals a link between Lyme disease and a decline in sexual drive. There was inadequate evidence to support the idea that urinary bladder detrusor dysfunction was the cause of libido decrease.
This is the first investigation of libido decrease in patients with Lyme disease. The need for additional, larger research on the sexual dysfunction caused by the infectious disease is indicated by the high percentage of patients with Lyme disease in this study who reported loss of libido and the increasing incidence of the illness in the geographic spread of infected arthropods. Such studies could incorporate a well-validated instrument to evaluate libido more thoroughly.
How to cope with reduced libido and Lyme disease
Because of the knowledge gap, relationships may suffer as a result of the different information about Lyme disease that is available in the medical community. Anyone who has Lyme disease or has had it for a significant amount of time is aware of its invisible nature. Two people may read completely different information on what Lyme can do, treatment techniques, strategies, diagnoses, and other related topics, depending on what or where they are reading it.
Therefore, spouses are not exempt from holding divergent beliefs or taking divergent courses depending on where they are in their illness journeys. It can be extremely challenging to deal with Lyme disease without having to worry that your partner is dealing with something entirely different. And it's not usually the patient's partner who doesn't accept what is happening. Sometimes, the patient is the one who is resisting the Lyme diagnosis or a certain course of therapy, and the partner is attempting to persuade them otherwise. It's challenging for the medical profession to agree on what Lyme is, and it may be extremely challenging for couples to agree on what Lyme is and what has to be done. It can therefore serve as a kind of microcosm of the bigger Lyme disease issue, not to mention all the other tick-borne diseases that many people aren't even aware of or aren't familiar with.
Any chronic illness, particularly Lyme disease, might have a propensity to exacerbate any prior relationship issues, which are almost always there because no relationship is flawless. All of these traits might become much more obvious if there are problems with communication, closeness, intimacy, or sharing. Problems with parenting and money also get worse. A chronic condition can occasionally strengthen a marriage and perhaps enable them to sort of rally and tackle some of those problems.
The dynamics of your relationship may need some time to change if your partner has now taken on a caregiver role. Counselling might be beneficial.
If you have any questions or concerns about sex, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider. If your doctor doesn't inquire, try to broach the matter on your own. Your problems can be simple to fix. It's crucial that you take the initiative and, if possible, put any humiliation aside because not all doctors are knowledgeable in this area. The Better Health Channel offers advice on how to bring up delicate subjects with your doctor.
You and your partner might benefit from this advice:
- Communication is key to problem solving because it allows you to express your feelings and worries in an open manner. Make it clear what you require in terms of intimacy and in general.
- Read up on your disease and what it entails for your life to the best of your ability. If you are well informed, you could feel more at ease discussing sex with your doctor.
- If the issues seem to be larger than you and your spouse can handle, consider seeking help. Occasionally, it’s beneficial to gain an outside perspective.
- Watch out for signs of depression in your relationship and keep an eye on each other. Although it's normal to feel depressed, depression is a more serious condition that has to be addressed. Watch your overall health as well. Caregivers need assistance and rest.
- Recognize your loss, try to accept that your diagnosis may have permanently changed your relationship, and try to come up with a new "normal" for the two of you.
- Visit your friends and/or family; being social and active might make you feel better about yourself and your life. Avoid social isolation, which is a risk factor for those with chronic illnesses.
- Addressing stress is important because it can be caused by financial concerns, changing job roles, and family obligations. Try to resolve these concerns so they don't interfere with your life, especially your desire for sexual intimacy.
- Think about being kind to your partner; this can help foster intimacy and loving feelings.
- Consult your doctor for more specific treatment, treatment of underlying Lyme disease, supplements, and counselling.