Andrew Siegel MD 11/14/15
This entry is intended to be unisex, since both genders are equally susceptibility to clogged arteries and impaired blood flow to muscles and other vital organs (a.k.a., ischemia). Although sexual dysfunction resulting from compromised pelvic blood flow is outwardly more obvious in the male with the inability to achieve an erection or difficulty in obtaining or maintaining an erection, females as well can suffer with sexual consequences to a similar degree with impaired arousal, lubrication and climax.
Male sexual response is so evident, conspicuous and literally palpable, a binary system with a digital “one” or “zero” response, whereas female sexuality is to all appearances so much less obvious and so much more subtle and nuanced. However, this framing of human sexual response is off target as the female sexual response results in genital anatomical changes as profound as those that occur in males, just less apparent. Under normal circumstances, the vagina is no more “primed” for sex than is a flaccid penis, the un-stimulated vagina being merely a potential space with the vaginal roof and floor in direct contact. However, when stimulated, the vaginal walls lubricate and the vagina expands, lengthens and widens in order to accommodate an erect penis, changes that are as dramatic as the transition of a flaccid penis to an erect penis.
Because the primary driver of the human sexual response is BLOOD FLOW, females can be as susceptible as males to compromised circulation and can “limp” in the bedroom just as much as males can. It’s just not as ovvious and apparent. Furthermore, both genders are susceptible to limping in the street.
In terms of ambulation, many people limp instead of walk because of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a medical condition in which the arteries in the legs clog due to a buildup of fatty plaque. This impairs blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and other tissues, giving rise to pain when exercise increases the muscle’s demand for oxygen.
PAD commonly occurs on the basis of poor lifestyle–obesity, diabetes, an unhealthy diet, a sedentary existence and often the use of tobacco. When muscles are denied the increased blood flow required with the demands of movements such as walking or exercisizing, pain and limping result, known as claudication, from the Latin “claudeo,” meaning “to limp.”
Claudication often does not demonstrate itself until there is significant blockage–usually about a 70% restriction– to arterial flow. It occurs because of insufficient oxygen to the leg muscles causing the buildup of lactic acid, which causes discomfort and pain. Claudication typically responds to stopping movement, which resolves the pain.
Claudication is by no means limited to the leg muscles, but can happen to any muscle in the body. “Claudication” of the heart muscle—which occurs when the coronary arteries are compromised—is known as angina. “Claudication” of the brain—which occurs when the carotid arteries are compromised—can give rise to mini-strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIA). “Claudication” of the penis—which occurs when the penile arteries are clogged with years of accumulation of fatty plaque—is known as erectile dysfunction (ED), a.k.a., when the penis limps along.
Sexual dysfunction in either gender can be a warning sign that an underlying medical problem exists, the quality of sexual response serving as a barometer of cardiovascular health. When it comes to men, the presence of rigid and durable erections is an indicator of overall cardiovascular health, and conversely, the presence of ED can be a clue to poor cardiovascular health. For this reason, men with ED should consider undergoing a basic medical evaluation seeking arterial disease elsewhere in the body (heart, brain, aorta, and peripheral blood vessels). Since the penile arteries are generally rather small—1 to 2 millimeters in diameter—and the coronary (heart) arteries are about 4 millimeters in diameter, it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the tiny penile arteries, it may well be soon affecting the larger coronary arteries as well. The presence or absence of erections may thus be considered a genital “stress test.” The same applies to females who are limping in the bedroom.
The presence of ED is as much of a predictor of cardiovascular disease as is a strong family history of cardiac problems, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson expanded the meaning of the initials ED to: Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries); Early Detection (of cardiovascular disease); and Early Death (if missed).
Bottom Line: Heart-healthy and blood vessel-healthy is sexual-healthy (and vice versa). If you do not care to limp when you walk or be limp in the bedroom, commit to a healthy lifestyle. Minimizing the buildup of fatty arterial plaque will prevent claudication everywhere in the body. To do so requires weight management, healthy eating, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco, etc. And if you are already limping (whether it is on the sidewalk or the bedroom), a lifestyle “angioplasty”—cleaning up your unhealthy lifestyle habits—can help reverse the problem. This applies equally to both men and women.
Wishing you the best of health,
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Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.
Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.
Tags: Andrew Siegel MD, angina, claudication, ED, erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, limp, limp penis, limping along, male sexual dysfunction, peripheral arterial disease, sexual dysfunction, TIA