A particularly painful form of arthritis, gout is characterized by sharp and needle-like crystallized deposits of uric acid forming in the joints. We’re supposed to expel uric acid from our bodies through our urine, but sometimes, our kidneys don’t process uric acid properly or we eat too much of foods containing high uric acid or purines, that uric acid begins to build up. And when the build-up becomes too much, it forms crystals which lead to gout.
Deposits of crystalline uric acid, also called tophi, usually form in the joints, and sometimes in cartilages. Usually, gout forms in the feet, commonly in the big toe joint. However, crystalline uric acid may also form in other joints, such as in the knees, elbows, fingers, and wrists. Aside from the pain caused by the sharp crystals, people with gout also often experience stiffness in the joints as well as swelling. As painful as gout is, did you know that gout, sex, and erectile dysfunction have something to do with each other? Read on to find out more.
Last year, a United Kingdom study involving more than 9,653 male patients diagnosed with gout who were compared to more than 38,000 men who did not suffer from gout. With regard to general health, the researchers found that men with gout were more likely to show the following conditions:
- alcohol consumption
- diabetes mellitus
- ischemic heart disease
- chronic renal disease
With regard to erectile dysfunction, the study results were as follows:
- Higher percentages of erectile dysfunction were diagnosed in gout patients, across all age groups, from less than 34 years old to 64 years old.
- Higher percentages of erectile dysfunction were diagnosed in current smokers, both for the gout patients and in men who did not have gout.
- For men who did not have gout, higher alcohol consumption per week was associated with increased risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Male gout patients had higher percentages of erectile dysfunction, as compared to men who did not suffer from gout, regardless of levels of alcohol consumption.
- Male gout patients had higher percentages of erectile dysfunction across all types of body mass index categories, from underweight to obese.
- For men who did not have gout, those who were obese had almost three times higher percentages of erectile dysfunction as compared to underweight men who did not have gout.
- For men with diabetes, there was no big difference in the percentages of men with erectile dysfunction, both in the gout patients group and those without gout.
- For men with hypertension, higher percentages of erectile dysfunction were reported in the group of gout patients as compared to men who did not have gout. The same is true for men who suffered from chronic renal disease and depression.
One of the most significant findings of the study relates to the timing when erectile dysfunction was reported and when gout was diagnosed. Before the diagnosis of gout, erectile dysfunction was highest at 4 years prior, then it decreased and spiked again a year before gout diagnosis. After gout diagnosis, the incident ratios of erectile dysfunction reports were highest during the second and third years, after which it decreased.
These results show that no matter the physical or medical condition, if you have gout, then you are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction as compared to men who don’t have gout. One possible explanation for this is the link between endothelial dysfunction and high levels of uric acid in men with gout, according to the ISSM or International Society for Sexual Medicine.
Because the endothelium is the tissue lining our blood vessels, an endothelial dysfunction can lead to penile blood flow restriction. Any disruption or impairment affecting blood flow to the penis can lead to weaker erections, and eventually, erectile dysfunction.
What About Sex?
When you already have gout, sex can be a painful instead of a pleasurable activity. Depending on where the uric acid crystals formed, it can hamper your performance in a certain sexual position. For instance, if there’s gout swelling in your knees or elbows, the missionary position might just be impossible for you. If it’s in your big toes, it could also hamper your mobility, and you might not be as mobile or agile in standing positions.
This is not to say that you absolutely can’t have sex when you have gout. Communicating with your partner about your condition and the pain you are experiencing can be helpful and hopefully encourage your partner to be open to trying new sexual positions. Actually, if you think about it, even if you have gout inflammation in various joints all over your body, you can still have successful sex with the woman-on-top position. But if the pain is really unbearable, you and your partner can have sex when your gout medication is in full effect. By the way, there are studies that show sex can help relieve pain. So if you have sex even when you have a gout attack, you may be able to reap the added benefits of a natural pain reliever.
Avoid Gout And Erectile Dysfunction
There are a lot of high purine content foods that can trigger gout. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are examples of foods that you need to avoid to prevent a gout attack:
Seafood – herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna
Meat – liver and kidney
Alcohol – makes you dehydrated and interrupts with the removal of uric acid from your body
Cherries, Vitamin C, and lots of water can help prevent a gout attack. Whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes are also gout-friendly foods. The good news is that gout is actually curable, although it does take lifestyle changes in terms of the way you eat and how much exercise you do. But if you want to avoid experiencing the kind of pain gout brings, not to mention lowering your risks of erectile dysfunction, making these lifestyle changes will do you a lot of good.