Cirrhosis is not just a leading killer of American men, it also kills your sex life. More than 25,000 men in the US died due to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in 2015. The disease is, in fact, the tenth top cause of mortality in American men.
Cirrhosis occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy cells in your liver. There are many types of cirrhosis, but they are all characterized by scarring in the liver. Of the different types of the disease, the most common are chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis caused by chronic alcoholism. These two are also the types of cirrhosis which have the highest prevalence of associated sexual dysfunctions.
Many people think that cirrhosis only affects the liver. The truth is, the liver plays such an important role in the normal functioning of our body that any time there is damage to the liver, the damage will spill over to our other organs and bodily systems. And our reproductive system is no exception.
In an early study investigating the relationship between cirrhosis and sexual behavior in women, 150 women aged 26-76 years were assessed for sexual desire, frequency, and performance. The results were extremely negative. Libido decreased by 33%, with 18% of the patients having difficulties even in just becoming sexually aroused. A quarter of the women did not experience orgasm during sex. And sexual intercourse frequency dropped by almost 30%. This study was conducted in 1989. Let’s now cut to the present and see how cirrhosis kills sex life in men.
1 Out Of 3 Men With Hepatitis-B Related Cirrhosis Has Severe Erectile Dysfunction
In a 2015 study, 69 male patients with early-stage cirrhosis and Hepatitis-B related cirrhosis were examined. The patients were between 40 to 59 years old. The results showed that more than 40% of the patients with Hepatitis-B related cirrhosis had erectile dysfunction. The sad news is that almost 30% of these had severe cases of erectile dysfunction. Almost a fourth of all the patients had erectile dysfunction, although in varying stages.
Another study focusing on 98 men awaiting liver transplant showed that out of the 70 patients who were sexually active, almost 75% had erectile dysfunction. The study further revealed that for men with existing liver damage, alcohol intake, tobacco use, and cardiovascular disease increased the chances of developing erectile dysfunction.
Cirrhosis Shrinks Your Balls
Cirrhosis of the liver is associated with hypogonadism, wherein the body is no longer able to produce hormones in sufficient amounts. In men with cirrhosis, this means that their testosterone levels drop way below normal.
Testicular atrophy, a condition wherein the testes diminish in size, is also associated with cirrhosis. As the testicles get smaller and smaller, loss of testicular function will also be more prevalent. If the cause of the cirrhosis was chronic alcoholism, testicular atrophy can become more pronounced. This is because hypogonadism is more pronounced in alcohol patients due to the fact that ethanol in alcoholic drinks directly affects the testes.
Cirrhosis Causes Your Libido To Disappear
As men with cirrhosis experience dropping levels of testosterone, decrease in libido becomes a natural effect of the disease.
Of all the possible causes of cirrhosis, Hepatitis-C is the one that causes an extremely vicious cycle when it comes to decreased libido. First off, Hepatitis-C always comes with fatigue and depression, and these two alone are enough to banish any thoughts of sex. Hence, Hepatitis-C is almost always followed by a decreased libido.
However, the medications for Hepatitis-C also often cause reduced libido and sexual dysfunction. Then when hepatitis has caused enough damage to the liver to form liver scars, that will then cause hormonal imbalances, which will also ultimately result in decreased libido.
In fact, one study showed that men infected with Hepatitis-C saw significant reduction in all the five evaluated domains of sexual function. Male Hepatitis-C patients saw a decrease not just in their drive to have sex. They also experienced reduced erectile function, sexual problem assessment, ejaculation. Overall sexual satisfaction was also significantly lower as compared to men who were not infected with Hepatitis-C.
Cirrhosis Causes Feminization
As a result of this hormonal imbalance, another problem arises. As if the fact that you already lost your sex drive and you can no longer achieve erections is not enough, you may even experience feminization, thanks to cirrhosis.
In male patients with cirrhosis, the hormonal balance becomes distorted, and the patients end up having more estrogen than androgen in their bodies. The more severe your cirrhosis is, the more distorted your hormonal balance would be. This is because the liver plays a crucial aspect in hormone secretion.
Moreover, liver damage can also lead to an overproduction of the compounds that bind testosterone while increasing estrogen receptors in the liver. Thus, the level of free testosterone in the body gets reduced. As a result, male cirrhosis patients may also experience gynecomastia or the enlargement of the breasts.
Cirrhosis Can Make You Infertile
Cirrhosis of the liver has a huge impact on fertility, both in male and female patients, because of the hormonal imbalances that the condition causes. In men, this means that sperm production is also affected. In fact, one study showed that half of the male cirrhosis patients manifested reduced sperm production.
Another study revealed how Hepatitis-B, which is another disease that leads to cirrhosis, can lead to infertility. The results showed that the virus causing Hepatitis-B lowers sperm motility. It also reduces the capacity of the sperm to fertilize the female egg by more than 50%. Thus, the likelihood of male patients with Hepatitis-B to develop infertility is 150% more than men who are not infected with the Hepatitis-B virus.
The bottom line here is simple. You can prevent cirrhosis and you can prevent your sex life from dying. As always, a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are recommended. Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco will also do wonders for your health. It’s also a good idea to back away from unprotected sex, since hepatitis, which is a cirrhosis-causing disease, can be transmitted through sex.