Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 11—Sexuality and Fertility

Healthy blood

Healthy blood

Anemic blood

Anemic blood

Fatigue or Lack of Desire

So far in this module we've covered how important it is to feel good about yourself, and some ways that kidney disease can affect your body image. But what if you're just so tired that you don't want sex? We'll cover causes and solutions for fatigue and lack of desire in this section.

One common reason for feeling worn out with kidney disease is anemia—a shortage of red blood cells. Kidney disease reduces your body's ability to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your muscles. Anemia can reduce your interest in and ability to do things you enjoy. Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Pale skin, gums, and fingernail beds
  • Shortness of breath/chest pain
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Erectile problems

I've been on dialysis now for almost 4 years, and I found that my libido did decline when I was having problems with kidney disease, but not dialysis per se. When my anemia got really bad about 2 years ago, I began to worry that I would forget what sex was like! Now that my blood is strong and I'm doing better, well, let's say there's more of a 'rev' in my engine again.

Chewing Ice? You May Have Anemia

Another common symptom of anemia in people with kidney disease is called pica—or having the desire to chew ice, clay, or even laundry starch. The reason for this link is unclear, but if you notice this, ask your doctor about anemia treatment.

The good news is, anemia can be treated—and you can feel better and have more energy. Treating anemia early can also help prevent heart damage. Let your treatment team know how your fatigue is a problem in your life. To learn more about anemia, visit Module 6—Anemia and Kidney Disease.

Too Tired to Tango?

If fatigue or joint pain is a problem for your sexual relationship, you may want to rethink your position on sex—literally.

Couples may believe the missionary position is the "right" way to have sex. But there is no right way. You may use less energy (and have just as much fun) if you try lying on your sides facing each other, "spooning," having your partner on top, or even sitting in a sturdy chair with your partner facing you. You don't have to use the Kama Sutra, but a little experimenting can help you to have a more fulfilling sex life.

Page 13 of 69 | Further reading