A person’s sexual health can contribute to or take away from their overall happiness and quality of life. Fortunately, it is possible for a person to enjoy satisfying sex and intimacy throughout their lifetime. Nevertheless, sexual health issues can affect people of all ages. In recognition of June being Men’s Health Month, the following is a list of the most common sexual health issues that may impact men.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the difficulty getting or maintaining an erection that is firm enough for sex. It is a fairly common sexual dysfunction in men, and it becomes increasingly prevalent with age. By some estimates, ED affects half of all men aged 40-70 years, affecting more men at older ages.
ED can have physical or psychological causes such as heart disease, diabetes, nerve-related disorders, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low testosterone, injury to the penis, depression, anxiety, or relationship issues, in addition to other factors.
While the occasional difficulty achieving an erection is likely no cause for concern, if a man is consistently experiencing difficulties, he can consult his health care provider for information on ED and its treatment options. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising regularly, managing chronic conditions, not smoking, and reducing stress and anxiety is the best way to prevent ED.
Some men find that they do not have control over when they ejaculate and they ejaculate too quickly during sex, which is called premature ejaculation (PE). On the other hand, some men experience delayed ejaculation (DE), which is when it takes an unusually long time for them to reach orgasm and ejaculate during sex, sometimes not ejaculating at all. Men may also experience painful ejaculation, retrograde ejaculation (when the ejaculate is released backwards into the bladder rather than out of the penis), or anejaculation (the inability to ejaculate at all).
Ejaculatory disorders such as these can be frustrating and distressing for men and their sexual partners. Fortunately, there are ways to treat them. Men with PE can try stopping sexual stimulation when they are close to orgasm to delay ejaculation. They may also consider using a penile anesthetic cream to reduce sensation during sexual activity or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are medications that are commonly used to treat depression, but which also delay ejaculation.
Conversely, men with DE who are taking SSRIs for depression may consider changing medications or adjusting their dosage. Men with DE can also try modifying their sexual routine to include different activities or positions to heighten stimulation.
As with any health issue or concern, men with a suspected ejaculatory disorder should speak to their health care provider about potential treatment options. Counseling or sex therapy can be helpful for men with any type of ejaculatory dysfunction.
Low Sex Drive
It is not uncommon for men to experience low sex drive or low libido. If a man is occasionally uninterested in sex and unbothered by it, there is no need for concern. However, if it is a persistent issue that causes him or his partner distress, he may be experiencing a desire disorder such as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
Low sex drive or desire can be caused by an underlying medical condition such as low testosterone or cancer. It may also be brought on by psychological factors such as stress or depression. Whatever the cause, there are treatment options, so men need not suffer unnecessarily. Men with low libido that is bothersome to them are encouraged to consult their primary care providers.
Performance anxiety may underlie (or contribute to) any of the sexual health issues mentioned above. Unfortunately, if a man experiences a sexual dysfunction once or twice, he may feel more anxious about sex in the future, which might cause the dysfunction to occur again. Being aware of this potential cycle allows a person to be proactive in their approach to the situation. A therapist or mental health professional can provide ideas of methods for controlling sexual performance anxiety. Practicing mindfulness and regularly employing relaxation techniques may also be beneficial.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
All sexually active individuals should be aware of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and take steps to reduce their risk of becoming infected. Men can contract STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, viral hepatitis, and HIV, among others. The most effective way to prevent the spread of STIs during sex is to use a protective barrier such as a condom or dental dam for the entirety of every sexual activity with a new or unknown partner. Learn how to effectively use condoms here.