Systemic sclerosis is a rare connective tissue disease that can cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Men with systemic sclerosis often develop erectile dysfunction, whereas female patients develop vaginal dryness, skin tightening around the vagina, and reduced libido.
Although there are systemic sclerosis patients who are able to lead a fulfilling sex life, as many as 80% of men with systemic sclerosis suffer from sexual dysfunction. Find out how this rare disease can impair your erectile function and destroy your sex life.
An autoimmune disorder, systemic sclerosis causes increased production of collagen, adversely affecting the skin, blood vessels, and internal organs. An essential amino acid, collagen is an important component of your connective tissues. This means that you will find collagen in all parts of your body, including your skin and blood vessels.
Of all the proteins found in the human body, collagen is the most abundant. This is mainly because collagen serves to hold the human body together. However, when you have systemic sclerosis, your body overproduces collagen and this results in excessive deposition of collagen in almost all parts of the body.
The cause of systemic sclerosis is only partially understood. However, it is widely accepted that exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment like organic solvents and pesticides can contribute to the development of systemic sclerosis.
During the early stages of the disease, you may notice changes in your skin, especially around your nose, mouth, and other bony areas like your fingers. As systemic sclerosis progresses, it can cause other symptoms such as hair loss, diarrhea, constipation, dry cough, and shortness of breath.
Calcium may also build up under your skin, causing white lumps. The disease may also affect your joints, which can result in joint pain. If the disease affects your digestive tract, you may find it difficult to swallow, or you may experience esophageal reflux.
Systemic sclerosis can also affect your blood vessels, so you may notice dilated blood vessels under the surface of your skin or you may experience vasospasms or blood vessels spasms.
As the disease progresses, several complications may develop. For instance, digital ulcers or pitting in the fingertips are commonly associated with systemic sclerosis. This complication may occur when systemic sclerosis causes severe blood flow restriction to the extremities, resulting in permanent damage to your fingertips.
Systemic sclerosis can also result in scarring of the connective tissues found in our lungs, leading to various lung diseases. Your kidneys are also vulnerable to the attack of systemic sclerosis, which is why renal failure or kidney failure is quite common among systemic sclerosis patients.
Systemic Sclerosis and Erectile Dysfunction
There are several ways by which systemic sclerosis can cause erectile dysfunction. In order for you to achieve a satisfactorily rigid erection, your penile blood supply, your nervous system, and your psychological state need to be well enough for you to properly function sexually. Unfortunately, systemic sclerosis messes up these three important factors.
For one, in order for an erection to occur, your erectile tissues need to be engorged with blood, which requires an adequate blood supply to your penile arteries. When you have systemic sclerosis, the disease affects your blood vessels, causing an insufficient blood supply to your erectile tissues.
In addition, for your erectile tissues to be engorged with blood, they need to be able to relax so that blood can flow in. However, systemic sclerosis causes fibrosis, meaning your erectile tissues thicken and harden in such a way that they’re no longer able to relax properly.
Penile fibrosis can affect both your corpora cavernosa, which are the sponge-like tissues that trap the blood inside your penis, and your tunica albuginea, which is the membrane that surrounds your corpora cavernosa.
When your corpora cavernosa and tunica albuginea thicken, it can lead to erection problems. Penile fibrosis can also result in Peyronie’s disease, which means that your erect penis will become curved because the thickening of the tunica albuginea is pulling your erect penis to one side. Peyronie’s disease is another condition that can lead to sexual dysfunction.
When your erectile tissues don’t relax, blood can’t flow in. In short, your penis won’t become engorged with blood and it won’t become hard at all. Fibrosis in your penile tissues may also lead to nerve damage.
And when your penile nerves are not working properly, it can also interfere with your erectile function. Your penile nerves actually need to release nitric oxide, which then triggers erectile tissue relaxation. If these nerves are unable to produce and release nitric oxide, then your erectile tissues won’t be stimulated enough to relax.
Moreover, systemic sclerosis can negatively impact your psychological state. Being diagnosed with this burdensome condition can cause great anxiety and can even lead to depression.
Both anxiety and depression can further negatively affect your sexual function by interfering with your libido. Depression and anxiety are also known as common psychological factors that can lead to erectile dysfunction.
In addition, systemic sclerosis often leads to other serious medical conditions since the autoimmune disease causes collagen to accumulate in your heart, digestive system, muscles, lungs, and kidneys. In fact, some of the most common complications associated with systemic sclerosis include kidney failure, high blood pressure, cancer, and even heart failure.
When you develop any of these conditions as a complication of systemic sclerosis, it can further add to the psychological burden that you’re carrying. When you’re focused on fighting these complications, you may completely lose your interest in sexual activities.
Enhancing Your Ability to Achieve Erections
For men with erection issues, there are now many options available for you to fight off impotence and improve your erectile function. For instance, medications for erectile dysfunction are now readily available.
Herbal supplements also provide viable solutions for impotence. It is composed of some of the strongest and safest herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction.
For instance, it contains Tribulus terrestris, a popular natural remedy for impotence, low testosterone levels, and even reduced libido. It also contains maca, a vegetable that’s rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Maca is also known for its potency in improving male sexual virility.