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Epilepsy and sex

Epilepsy and sex | Jo Divine

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which manifests itself in the tendency to have recurrent seizures. In the UK 600,000 people or 1 in every 103 people has epilepsy and it can affect anyone, whatever their age, sex and walk of life. Each day in the UK, 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy.

For many people, epilepsy does not cause specific sexual problems. However, it can impact upon sexual intimacy and relationships.

Epilepsy can affect your sex life in many ways, which I explore below.

Intimacy

Many people worry that they will have a seizure during sex. However, there is no research to demonstrate that you are more likely to have a seizure during sex than at any other time.

Some people find talking about their epilepsy difficult and may not want to be alone with their partner in case they seize. The person with the epilepsy may feel fine talking about it but it may be uncomfortable for their partner or vice versa.

Being honest about the way you both feel is important and often you find that you both have the same worries or fears which can be alleviated by sharing them.

When starting a new relationship you might have worries about how you tell your new partner about your condition. Past reactions from previous partners can make you feel unsure but you may find that your new partner has completely different views and ideas and will support you.

Decreased libido

This can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons including stress, fatigue, increased consumption of alcohol, hormonal changes and side effects of medication.

For a person with epilepsy, fears concerning having a seizure during sex may lower your libido, in addition to side effects from medication. These can include arousal problems, disrupted sleep pattern, feeling anxious or depressed or general lack of interest in sex.

The physiology of the disease can also affect the production of certain hormones required for sexual arousal and desire.

For penis owners, there is often a lack or reduced interest in sex and an inability to get an erection, especially for those with temporal lobe epilepsy.

Vagina and vulva owners often report sexual dysfunction problems, which include decreased libido caused by the way in which hormones are released in your body, inability or difficulty to orgasm or painful sex. This can be caused by vaginal dryness due to reduced vaginal secretions, or vaginal tightness caused by spasms within the vaginal walls.

How to overcome sexual problems

It is important that you do not stop taking your medication even if you think it is causing your sexual problems. Seek advice from your GP who may change your medication to one with less side effects or refer you to an epilepsy consultant who will discuss different treatment options with you to help alleviate your symptoms.

They should also discuss lifestyle factors which may impact upon your sexual function, such as your weight, alcohol consumption, exercise routine and any stress factors which could be causing depression or anxiety.

They can also refer you to a sex therapist or counsellor to discuss your fears and worries about having a seizure during sex or for cognitive behaviour therapy which can help you modify the way in which you feel and help to reduce your feelings of anxiety.

Ways to alleviate erectile dysfunction

As well as discussing lifestyle factors mentioned above, you may also undergo a physical examination of your bladder and prostate to rule out any abnormalities such as an enlarged prostate or bladder neck conditions which cam impact upon bladder and erectile function.

Your GP can prescribe medication such as erection-enhancing phophodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (viagra type drugs). Many penis owners are able to take these medications without side effects but for some, they do not work effectively or they are unable to take them due to predisposing health risks.

You may be offered injections into the penis but these can be very painful and may result in prolonged erections.

The use of a penis pump, such as Hydromax Bathmate can help you gain an erection without the side effect of drug therapy and often helps to alleviate erectile dysfunction when the cause is due to stress or anxiety. The physical sight of gaining an erection is often enough to overcome erectile issues.

Using the Pulse III Solo Essential is a uniquely designed sex toy for penis owners that uses a piston-type mechanism that causes its PulsePlate to move up and down. This technique is known as Penile Vibratory Stimulation.

The design of the Pulse enables the user to enjoy an orgasm without the need for an erect penis.

The Pulse III Duo is a couples’ vibrator that encourages sexual intimacy between those suffering from ED and their partner. It offer sexual stimulation to both partners.

Ways to alleviate vagina/vulval sexual dysfunction

In addition to talking to your GP about changing your medication if you think it is causing your sexual problems and being referred for counselling or sex therapy, there are a few self help ideas you can do to help to alleviate your symptoms.

Vaginal dryness

Sex should never be painful and vaginal dryness is a contributory factor, occurring in vagina owners at any time. Hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, the menopause, side effects of medication and lack of libido can affect vaginal secretions.

However, sex feels much more pleasurable when you use a pH balanced sexual lubricant such as YES, which is plant based, scent free, taste less and colour free. It is also free from glycerin, glycols and parabens and is PH balanced to the vagina. It hydrates the walls of the vagina, nourishing the tissues and making them more flexible.

It’s really important to be aware of the ingredients of your lubricant as some commonly found in many lubricants such as glycerin, glycols and parabens can and do cause vaginal and anal irritation and even thrush, and also ensure that you’re using a product that is designed for sexual use.

Be aware that some well known lubricant brands do not always put the ingredients on the label so choose a product that you know what the ingredients are. When using a lubricant always do a skin test before putting it all over your vulva, inside your vagina or anus. If you experience any irritation, wash it off immediately. If you notice itching or soreness after sexual use, it will probably be the lubricant so choose a skin safe product.

Many people also assume they are allergic to latex condoms when it is often the lubricant on the condom or friction during sex when the lubricant dries out so choose a condom with a silicone lubricant such as Skins or use your own lubricant. Avoid any oil based product as this will destroy the condom.

Vaginal Tightness

In addition to vaginal tightness being caused by vaginal spasms, known as vaginismus, it can also occur when you feel stressed, anxious or concerned that sex will feel painful or uncomfortable. Your GP can prescribe antispasmodic medication to alleviate the spasms of the vaginal walls.

Vaginismus is treated through a combination of self-help, counselling with a sex therapist and physiotherapy with a pelvic health physiotherapist.

Many gynaecologists recommend using medical vaginal dilators, which vary in size, to be slowly introduced into the vagina. These are often made from rigid plastic which is uncomfortable to use and are not available on prescription.

The CalExotics Inspire Dilator Kit is made with amazingly soft silicone, and each dilator has a gentle curve for easy insertion. The dilators also have a looped handle for ergonomic use, but you could also slip a bullet or slim vibrator through this loop to enjoy gentle vibrations during use.

Instead of medical dilators, you could use a slim vibrator instead. Recommended by some gynaecologists and women’s health physiotherapists, the Picobong Zizo, OhMiBod Cuddle, and Je Joue Uma are all made from skin safe silicone and feel very soft against the delicate tissues of your vulva and vagina.

Stimulating your clitoris can help you relax and hopefully orgasm, relaxing your vaginal muscles and enabling you to insert the vibrator inside your vagina in your own time and at your own pace. Using a vibrator can let you enjoy sexual pleasure with your partner even when you are unable to have penetrative sex and helps you both to explore what feels good for you.

Difficulty in orgasming

This can be as a result of stress or a decrease in sex hormones affecting your arousal or lack of stimulation.

Many people are not aware that they may not orgasm through sexual intercourse alone, but can orgasm through clitoral stimulation. If there is a decreased sexual sensation around the vulval area, you may require greater stimulation to achieve an orgasm which is often difficult for partners or you to achieve.

Using a powerful vibrator or body massager such as the Doxy Massager or Rocks-off Oriel can provide the perfect amount of vibratory stimulation needed to orgasm.

While it isn’t a vibrator, the Satisfyer Pro 2 is recommended for those struggling to achieve an orgasm. The Satisfyer Pro Plus Vibration combines both vibrations and air wave pulsations which create a comepletely unique sexual stimulation which can also help you achieve an orgasm.

Lack of arousal can be problematic, but spending more time on foreplay using sexual lubricants can help. If you have your orgasm first, using a vibrator, this can help as it enables you to concentrate on what is happening to your body during sexual intercourse rather than fixating on having an orgasm and getting frustrated when you don’t.

Some people don’t orgasm, a symptom of a condition known as anorgasmia, but still enjoy sexual intimacy and stimulation through intimate massage and touch.

If you think you experience sexual problems as a result of having epilepsy, seek advice from your doctor and consider trying some of the practical advice mentioned above to help you enjoy better sex.

At Jo Divine we believe that sexual health and sexual pleasure go hand in hand and have created our health brochure and mens health brochure with suitable products to help people with sexual issues. Working with medical professionals, we hope to encourage patients and HCPs alike in talking more freely about sexual problems. A health issue doesn’t mean your sex life will have to stop!

Useful Websites

Epilepsy Society : www.epilepsysociety.org.uk
Epilepsy Action : www.epilepsy.org.uk
Epilepsy Research UK : www.epilepsyresearch.org.uk
College of Sex and Relationship Therapists : www.cosrt.org.uk