Though a direct link has not yet been confirmed, living with Hepatitis C can negatively impact the sex lives of patients. Fatigue and depression, two side effects of chronic Hepatitis C, both play a role in decreasing an individual’s interest in sex. Antiviral medications used to treat the virus can also result in reduced libido and sexual dysfunction. In addition to a reduced sex drive, some people experience erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and lack of sexual satisfaction.
Decreased sexual desire and erectile dysfunction in men can also be attributed to altering levels of hormones caused by advanced liver disease. Men with advanced liver disease may even experience testicular dysfunction, loss of body hair, and an enlargement of their breasts. Many of these ramifications of advanced liver disease occur because of the disease’s tendency to decrease the body’s level of testosterone while increasing its estrogen level. Testosterone levels can also be affected by the consumption of too much alcohol. Men with Hepatitis C and advanced liver disease who drink large quantities of alcoholic beverages are then highly susceptible to sexual dysfunction.
A waning interest in sex is not limited to men. Women with Hepatitis C who are on
interferon and ribavirin therapy may experience vaginal dryness, potentially leading to a reduced desire for sexual activity. While topical estrogen and progesterone creams and oral estrogen supplements can ease the dryness, some risks are involved.
As you can see, sexual dysfunction affects both men and women. Whether caused by antiviral medications, advanced liver disease, fatigue or depression, Hepatitis C can severely impact a patient’s ability to have a normal and healthy functioning sex life. A sensitive topic for everyone, learning to open up and discuss sexual dysfunction with a physician can help improve a patient’s quality of life.