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Sexual Health & Kidney Disease

Sexuality and intimacy are important aspects of life. It can also be a taboo topic for some people and can be difficult to talk about. Treatment or kidney disease itself can affect how people feel about their sexuality and can affect intimate interactions.

It's possible to feel less "sexy" when you have less energy, or to be self-conscious about changes to your body. For more details, you can visit our Body Image page


Sexuality and intimacy are broad subjects that can have very different meanings for different people. Some general themes include:

  • Intimacy and connections; this can include spiritual, mental and physical connection with others
  • Sexual desire and libido
  • Self-perceptions of "sexiness"
  • Self-image, appearance, confidence

While living with kidney disease, or being with a partner who has kidney disease, you may experience changes related to sexuality and intimacy, and this is normal. Some physical examples, especially in the later stages of kidney disease, include:

  • Hormone imbalances in men, which reduce libido (desire for sex) and cause difficulty with erections
  • Hormone changes in women, which may reduce libido (desire for sex) or may cause painful intercourse; it's also possible to experience changes in ovulation or menstruation
  • Blood vessel damage, which may cause men to have difficulty in getting an erection
  • Side effects from medication, which can cause loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation

Not everyone will experience these changes, or to the same extent. If some aspect of kidney disease or treatment is impairing your ability to be intimate with a partner, you can consult your doctor or other members of your care team (ie., registered nurses or social workers) about ways to stay sexually active and/or intimate.

Many psychological factors, such as anger, worry, fear, guilt or anxiety, can also affect intimacy and sexuality between partners. For example, some people are self-conscious about scars or fistulas, which may affect how "confident," "sexy" or "desirable" they feel. In addition, partners of someone with kidney disease may be worried about physically hurting their loved one when engaging in sex or intimate interactions. Some tips for talking to your partner about these concerns are in the next tab. 

Talking with Your Partner

Communicating with your partner is essential in any intimate relationship. It is especially important to communicate with your partner if you are experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, or other negative emotions. Often communication can help ease these feelings, and identify solutions.

Some general tips for communicating include:

  • If you are nervous or uncomfortable to begin a conversation, try writing down your thoughts first
  • Share with your partner what is concerning you
  • Communicate with your partner about what you feel comfortable doing, and what feels good or does not feel good
  • Ask your partner how they feel about the topics raised 

Remember, sex and intimacy does not just mean intercourse. Intimacy with your partner can include kissing, caressing, hugging and other acts of affection. It's important that you find what you and your partner are both comfortable doing. This may take some time and communication. Some people may access sexual health counselling for more support. 

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SOURCE: Sexual Health & Kidney Disease ( )
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