Sexual dysfunction is a common finding in both men and women with chronic kidney failure. Common disturbances include erectile dysfunction in men, menstrual abnormalities in women, and decreased libido and fertility in both sexes. These abnormalities are primarily organic in nature and are related to uremia as well as the other comorbid conditions that frequently occur in the chronic kidney failure patient. Fatigue and psychosocial factors related to the presence of a chronic disease are also contributory factors. Disturbances in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis can be detected before the need for dialysis but continue to worsen once dialytic therapy is initiated. Impaired gonadal function is prominent in uremic men, whereas the disturbances in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis are more subtle. By contrast, central disturbances are more prominent in uremic women. Therapy is initially directed toward optimizing the delivery of dialysis, correcting anemia with recombinant erythropoietin, and controlling the degree of secondary hyperparathyroidism with vitamin D. For many practicing nephrologists, sildenafil has become the first line therapy in the treatment of impotence. In the hypogonadal man whose only complaint is decreased libido, testosterone may be of benefit. Regular gynecologic follow-up is required in uremic women to guard against potential complications of unopposed estrogen effect. Uremic women should be advised against pregnancy while on dialysis. Successful transplantation is the most effective means of restoring normal sexual function in both men and women with chronic kidney failure.
Copyright 2003 by the National Kidney Foundation, Inc.