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Parkinson's disease: Sexual problems

When a person is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the condition can affect many aspects of their life, including their sex life.

With the onset of Parkinson's disease, the development of sexual problems may be frustrating.

A doctor can help with advice and treatment for some sexual problems linked to Parkinson's disease.

What causes sexual problems?

Many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease are thought to be caused by reduced levels of dopamine in the brain - a chemical that transmits messages from the brain's "relay centre" to its nerve cells, enabling physical movement. It is possible that the lower level of dopamine may also cause a reduced drive or interest in sex.

A reduced sex drive or desire following the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease may be more a side-effect of depression than a direct result of the disease itself.

What are other symptoms associated with loss of sex drive?

While Parkinson's disease often causes tremors and rigidity contributing to physical pain that could then make sex painful or uncomfortable, men with the disease often suffer from erectile dysfunction.

Because Parkinson's disease negatively impacts the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), it may be difficult for a man to achieve an erection. The male body requires a series of nerve impulses in the brain, spinal cord and penis in order to have an erection.

Problems with these nerve impulses, such as may occur with Parkinson's disease, could result in erectile dysfunction. In addition, the blood circulation to the penis and the muscles in the penis need to be healthy to produce a normal erection. Problems with circulation or muscle function may also contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Medications and sexual dysfunction

Depression medications. Since depression is a common cause of sexual dysfunction and also one of the most common side-effects with Parkinson's disease, medications are often prescribed. Antidepressants may also cause sexual problems. 

If there are sexual symptoms such as decreased sex drive and/or erectile dysfunction, patients should seek help as these conditions may be treatable.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 18, 2016

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