2017-03-22 / Health Care

When sex and a man’s thyroid collide

By Dr. David Samadi

In case you didn’t know already, our hormones rule our lives. If you are a man with an endocrine disorder, you may also know that hormones released by the thyroid gland may be putting a damper on your sex life.

The thyroid gland is the most important endocrine gland in the body. This butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck impacts every body system within us. A few of its duties are to regulate our metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and even how much we weigh. And when it comes to sex, it sometimes interferes with a man’s sexual functions – or lack thereof.

Hypo- and hyperthyroidism are two different types of endocrine conditions affecting the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is unable to make enough hormones to function well which slows down the gland’s hormone production. Having too little production of thyroid hormones can leave a person feeling tired, cold, or find they are gaining weight. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body makes too much of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) and becomes overactive. People with hyperthyroidism may experience a fast heartbeat, increased appetite, anxiety, sensitivity to heat, or sudden weight loss. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is a condition called Grave’s disease.

Research studies on a man’s sex life and thyroid conditions

A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) found a connection between specific sexual problems in men who had thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The study included 48 adult men, 34 with hyperthyroidism and 14 with hypothyroidism. A variety of sexual problems including low sex drive or low libido, erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation, were evaluated in each of the study participants. Each man was examined twice: once while they were symptomatic, and a second time approximately 8 to 16 weeks after their thyroid levels had returned to normal reference ranges.

What the study found was the following - for men who had hypothyroidism:

 64.3% of the men had complaints of low sex drive, delayed ejaculation, and ED

 7.1% of the men experienced premature ejaculation

For men with hyperthyroidism:

 50% of the men had premature ejaculation

 17.6% of the men had a low sex drive

 14.7% of the men had ED

 2.9% of the men had delayed ejaculation

Roughly two-thirds of the men with hypothyroidism were experiencing low libido, delayed ejaculation and ED, while the majority of men with hyperthyroidism primarily experienced premature ejaculation.

Another study also published in JCEM looked once again at how hypo- and hyperthyroidism affect a man’s sexual function. According to a summary from the American Thyroid Association:

 79% of men with thyroid dysfunction showed some level of ED. 52% had hypothyroidism and 27% had hyperthyroidism, compared to 34% of men without any thyroid problems,

 Severe ED was found in almost 38% of men with hypothyroidism and almost 30% of men with hyperthyroidism, compared to 25% of men without a thyroid condition.

 Overall, 80% of the men studies had ED, compared with 37.5% of the men without thyroid conditions.

Implication of the studies

Men who have either hypo- or hyperthyroidism are not doomed to a lifetime of sexual disorders due to their malfunctioning thyroid gland. According to researchers, when a man gets a proper diagnosis and then treatment, they can help return his thyroid functioning, known as euthyroidism, back to normal with a reversal of most sexual symptoms in men. As an example, a study published in the International Journal of Andrology found that if a man’s TSH levels are suppressed that this is consistent with hyperthyroidism and links to ED.

Men who have a thyroid problem and are experiencing ED, can have the problem resolved with restoration of the euthyroid state. It is recommended for these men to be screened for ED but that any specific treatment should be postponed for at least six months after restoring euthyroidism as it may take this long for ED to spontaneously resolve.

What can a man with thyroid issues do?

Any man who has either hypo- or hyperthyroidism with sexual dysfunction occurring should know that the problem may be due to his thyroid condition. In order to treat the problem, he should be evaluated by his physician to review his medications and to see if he is receiving proper treatment.

If a man has never been diagnosed with a thyroid problem but is experiencing ED, premature or delayed ejaculation, or a low sex drive, should have a thorough thyroid evaluation done to rule out if that could be the answer or possible cause interfering with his sex life.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.

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