Sexual Health and Chronic Kidney Disease

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023

Taking care of all facets of your sexual health is important for everyone. But people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) face a few extra hurdles when it comes to sexual health and intimacy. While CKD can affect sexual health for people of all genders, there are steps you can take to ensure you have a safe and active sex life.1

Protecting yourself from infection

If you have CKD, you have a suppressed immune system. Certain medicines that treat CKD, as well as anti-rejection drugs for a kidney transplant, also may lower your immune system. This means your immune system is not strong enough to fight off infections well.1

In addition, you may not be as responsive to vaccines. All of these factors can put you at an increased risk of getting infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs).1

STIs are infections that are spread through sexual contact. This contact includes oral sex and intimate touching. Examples of STIs include:1

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

Protect yourself by getting screened for STIs between different sexual partners. Use condoms to help prevent STIs. If you choose to have unprotected sex, ensure you and your sexual partner have both been screened and you both test negative for STIs.1

Addressing intimacy issues and low sex drive

Some people with kidney disease may feel that their partner does not find them desirable anymore because of changes to their bodies. If this is the case, talk with them about how you are feeling. Consider also talking with a sex therapist. These professionals specialize in this area and can help you navigate your feelings and regain confidence.2

It is common to have a low sex drive (libido) if you have CKD. This can be due to several factors, such as:2

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Side effects from medicines
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Low self-esteem

If you suspect hormone imbalances, talk with your doctor. They can refer you to a sexual health clinic that can address the issue.2

If you are dealing with side effects of medicines or dialysis, your doctor may want to adjust your dosage or dialysis schedule. This could help lessen some of the issues.2

If you are suffering from fatigue and tiredness, ask your doctor to check your iron levels and other blood counts. Low iron could make you feel more tired than usual.2

Erectile dysfunction and chronic kidney disease

Getting and maintaining an erection is another common problem among people with kidney disease. It can be hard to talk about erectile problems, but you are not alone. And treatment is typically straightforward.2

Viagra® can help with erectile dysfunction and is generally safe to take if you have kidney disease. Or you could be taking a medicine that is causing erectile problems. Before starting or stopping any medicines, talk with your doctor about what they recommend.2

Making some lifestyle changes can help improve erectile dysfunction as well, like:2

  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Stopping smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly

Pregnancy and chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease can affect fertility. But it is still possible for a person with a uterus to get pregnant at all stages of CKD, even while on dialysis.1

Some CKD medicines are not safe to take while you are pregnant because they could harm your baby. If you plan to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your current medicines and which ones are safe.1

If you do not want to become pregnant, use contraception such as condoms and birth control pills. Talk with your doctor about what type of contraception is safe for you to use.1

Help is available

You do not have to suffer in silence or forgo sex altogether because of your CKD. Help is available. Make an appointment with your doctor or a sex therapist to talk about your concerns and possible solutions.2

Quick Quiz

Which of the following conditions is related to chronic kidney disease?

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