3 posts in the category “Uncategorized”

“Not tonight”: How health conditions can affect your sex life + relationships

Posted 1 month ago by

Personal (but important) question: How’s your sex life? Explore how your diagnosis (and symptoms and treatments) can impact your romantic relationships, see what members are saying about the topic on PatientsLikeMe — and learn what you can possibly do about love-life struggles.

Intimacy, interrupted

According to sexologists, people with a variety of health conditions can have some common issues with intimacy, such as:

  • Loss of interest in sex following a life-changing diagnosis
  • Physical and emotional stress and fatigue that zaps energy and self-confidence for sexual activity (or dating and romance, in general)
  • Disruptions related to physical symptoms and treatment side effects. Just to name a few examples: Parkinson’s disease can cause rigidity and tremors, digestive and neurological disorders can bring bowel incontinence, and chemotherapy for cancer can bring nausea and weakness.
  • Some side effects (whether mental or physical) can be even more sex-related, such as vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, issues with orgasm and low libido. (join PatientsLikeMe to read more about the sexual side effects of anti-depressants here in our forums).

Sex therapists say that people often push intimacy issues aside after their initial diagnosis because they may have seemingly bigger fish to fry. But sexuality doesn’t end when illness strikes, and research has uncovered the many mental and physical benefits of sex — so it’s an important topic.

Ignoring intimacy issues can have a snowball effect, Newsweek reported in an article about cancer and sex. “A lot of folks think it will get better over time, and it doesn’t, or years go by, and they’ve lost intimacy in their life,” says Catherine Alfano, vice president of survivorship at the American Cancer Society and a rehabilitation psychologist. “Sexuality is a very understudied area for the same reason it’s an undiscussed area in clinical practice: People just don’t want to talk about it—not in their research, not as a patient, not as a provider.”

So what can you do? Talk about it

Include intimacy issues on your “must-discuss” list when you see your healthcare provider. Could any adjustments help improve your sex life? For example, ask about different medications or dosages, tweaking your medication schedule to avoid sex-related side effects some days, and any tips that could make sex feel better (such as using pillows for body positioning or lubricants for dryness issues). Showering before sex may help loosen your muscles and clear your mind for the main event.

Also, talk with your partner about how your condition has affected your romantic life and what you can do together to improve your intimacy. That may mean more foreplay and less intercourse, or making a conscious effort at hand-holding, cuddling, dancing, date nights and other activities that can help bring back some closeness.

Consider seeing a counselor or therapist (solo or with your partner) to talk about the changes and challenges you’re experiencing, and get advice on treating related mental health or self-image issues and affirming your relationship.

On PatientsLikeMe

Nearly 35,000 members with a wide variety of conditions say they’re interested in the topic of relationships. What kinds of conversations is the community having about sex? People are sharing about everything from mental health conditions affecting their sex life to self-image issues when they’re dealing with lots of physical symptoms.

How is your condition impacting your sex life and romantic relationships? Join our community and this forum discussion to help make this important issue less taboo.

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5 Earth-friendly ideas for patients

Posted 5 months ago by

As Earth Month winds down, explore some environmental pointers, including how to donate (gently used) wheelchairs, what to do with empty pill bottles (earbud/jewelry case, anyone?) and where to dispose of unused meds (April 28, 2018, happens to be National Prescription Drug Takeback Day at 5,000+ sites across the U.S… read on!).

1. Donate unused medical supplies. Before adding unused supplies or gently used equipment to your trash heap, see if they’re on the wishlist of organizations that accept medical surplus, such as InterVolMedshare and Project C.U.R.E. (click to see lists of what they’ll take).

InterVol’s general rules of thumb for donations?

  • Would you want the item/supplies used on you?
  • Does it have one year left before the expiration date, if it goes in the body?
  • Does the equipment function as intended (no broken or missing parts)?
  • Is the equipment in good shape (no rust, rips, tears, etc.)?

2. (Properly) hand over unused medications. Few organizations accept prescription drug donations from individuals, and drug donation and redistribution laws vary by state. Look into the regulations where you live and comment below if you know of any organizations that accept donated medications (such as Insulin for Life, which collects some insulin and diabetes supplies).

Note: This Saturday is National Prescription Drug Takeback Day (April 28, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration twice a year so that people can bring unused or expired medications to a local collection site for safe disposal (search for a site near you). In the last Takeback Day in October 2017, people dropped off 456 tons of drugs.

3. Safely dispose of unused drugs and medical waste on your own. Cancer.net offers these pointers for medication disposal: “If you decide to take the matter into your own hands, you should always follow the disposal instructions found on the drug label or the patient information leaflet that comes with the prescription. Do not flush medicines down the toilet or sink unless this information specifically tells you to.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists the few medications that should be flushed— but check with your local water treatment and/or sanitation department about any rules or regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers this info on proper disposal of discarded needles, sharps and other medical waste. Wondering what to do with old oxygen tanks? See this guide.

4. Find new uses for empty pill bottles. An Indianapolis-based charity called The Malawi Project organized a hugely successful pill bottle collection drive to send the ubiquitous orange containers to the African country hit hard by HIV (where people were carrying their pills loose or wrapped in paper). After a million pill bottles quickly poured in, the organization stopped accepting donations — but they still encourage people look into other organizations still collecting them, or contact local animal shelters to see if they need them.

Recycle Nation says that few communities accept the orange (#5 plastic) pill bottles in their recycling programs, but a company called Preserve collects them at natural food stores across the country (check out this map) to use in their recycled plastic products. CVS Pharmacy is reportedly working on pill bottle recycling programs.

People have come up with lots of other creative ways to reuse or upcycle pill bottles — just a few neat ideas include:

  • “Hide-a-key” container (with a rock glued on top)
  • Earbud/headphone holder
  • Jewelry case
  • Mini sewing kit
  • Child-proof storage for quarters (for parking or laundry), pins, nails/screws, medical sharps or other small items

5. Go paperless with your insurance company and doctor’s office. Opt for electronic communication, if you’re comfortable with it. Many providers now offer email and/or text reminders rather than snail mail postcards or phone calls. Also, hospital gowns can be a drag for patients, and the paper ones contribute to medical waste. Depending on the medical setting and type of visit, ask your healthcare provider if it’s necessary to fully undress and wear a gown or use other (optional) disposable items for your visit.

Happy Earth Month!

Have any favorites from this list, or any “green” tips of your own to add? Join PatientsLikeMe to talk about topics like this and swap ideas with others.

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