Men should talk to their doctors about their sexual health.
It’s easy enough to say, but following this advice is often a challenge. Both men and their doctors can take steps to make it easier to connect on issues of sexual health. For patients, this involves seeing a family doctor for regular checkups and being honest about personal issues. Meanwhile, your doctor should ask specific questions related to sexual health when conducting checkups. They should also be prepared to offer resources beyond just a prescription for PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra.
We know this is a challenge, but the stakes are high. By having the right conversations early on, men can often resolve issues like erectile dysfunction. They can also identify other health problems like diabetes and heart disease. In this article, I’m breaking down why people don’t talk to doctors about sexual health – and why that needs to change.
Why men don’t go to the doctor – and why they should start.
Going to the doctor is something we know we should do, but we often don’t get around to it. Like going to the gym. Or eating walnuts and avocados. Or going for that walk after dinner.
Men avoiding the doctor’s office is not just a stereotype. A recent Cleveland Clinic survey showed that only three in five men get a yearly physical. Meanwhile, 40 percent of men still don’t get a health issue checked out until it becomes unbearable. On top of that, the majority won’t talk about their health with others.
Look, we’re not saying that men should share personal health issues with everyone. Erectile dysfunction doesn’t make for good water cooler conversation. But your doctor does need to be in the loop about any body part that isn’t working properly. For many men, regular check-ups are a great opportunity to raise these concerns.
What sexual health issues should I discuss with my doctor?
Men are often unsure of what sexual health issues would be relevant in a check-up.
Is doing it a bit less than normal a health issue? Possibly not. Is a significant dip in sexual activity worth noting? Probably. Is being physically unable to have sex worth discussing? Absolutely!
Here are some of the common sexual health issues men should raise with a medical professional
- Inability to get or maintain an erection
- Extreme change in libido or stamina
- Decrease in amount of sex or interest in sex
- Unusual discharge from the penis
- Pain, lumps, or other unusual growths on the testicles or penis
- Need for STI protection and testing
While talking about these things with a family doctor can be worthwhile, note that you do not need a doctor’s referral to get support from a specialty clinic dealing with sexual health. For example, a local STI testing center may be worth consulting for infection concerns and an ED-focused clinic like FullMast is the best resource for sexual performance. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you can reference our Directory of Toronto Sexual Health Resources to find the best options near you.
Why your doctor should ask about sexual function
The question your doctor should ask is a simple one: Are you having sex on a regular basis in an intimate relationship? There are three reasons to ask this question:
- Sex has many health benefits. Studies show that an active sex life lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, and reduces the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. While no one should feel forced to have sex by a doctor’s orders, having a bit more could help alleviate some of the psychological and physiological challenges that come with age.
- Erectile dysfunction can signify other health challenges. Erectile dysfunction is often a blood flow issue. Since blood pumps from the heart, this is no small matter. Many people have discovered serious underlying conditions when undergoing testing for ED. In general, if a body part isn’t working like it used to, your doctor should know.
- Intimacy can affect treatment and recovery from illnesses. Studies have shown that people with a healthy sex life with an intimate partner mange and recover from serious illnesses at higher rates. An Italian study, for example, found that men with type 2 diabetes who had a healthy sex life were significantly less likely to suffer from illness-related distress. According to renowned doctor and professor of Sexology Christian Graudaard, “a fulfilling sexual life might reduce morbidity and perhaps even mortality of patients. Sadly, nearly two-thirds of the aforementioned diabetes patients reported that sexuality had not been addressed by any doctor within the past year.”
It’s undeniable: sex makes a big difference in a man’s overall health. That’s why a doctor should ask specific questions on this subject when performing a check-up on an adult man.
Can sexual health issues be resolved by my family doctor?
If talking to a doctor about erectile dysfunction or other sexual health issues makes you nervous, it’s important to remember that it is worth the conversation. The earlier you begin treating something like erectile dysfunction, the more likely you are to completely resolve the issue.
Recent research has made multiple exciting erectile dysfunction treatments available to men. Some of these, such as SONICWAVE, allow for permanent ED treatment without drugs or surgery. There’s just one catch – it works best with early diagnosis. The health issues that often come with ED, like high blood pressure and diabetes, also benefit from early intervention.
Regular sex and healthy relationships are critical to the health of most men, but we rarely speak about this sensitive subject with our family doctor. A conversation about sexual health may not be one we’re comfortable initiating or participating in, but an honest dialogue with a qualified health professional can improve our relationships and sexual wellbeing. A doctor should ask about sexual health not only because it is relevant, but because they can truly improve patients’ lives by understanding how things are going in the bedroom.
“How often are you having sex?” might be the question that leads to big improvements in one’s health.
If you have questions, please call to set up an appointment at FullMast Men’s Health Clinics.