Dealing with illness and medication side effects

There are three integrative strategies to deal with illness and medication issues: (a) be an active, involved patient in understanding and coping with your illness; (b) consult your medical doctor as a couple with a focus on how to be a better patient in terms of health behaviors and use medication with less sexual side effects or an "antidote" medication to counter the negative sexual side effects; (c) accept the limitations of your illness and change your sexual life with alternative sexual scenarios so your sexuality is not controlled by the illness.

The following are examples of each coping strategy. First, find a trusted book or web site that provides reliable medical information and coping techniques for your specific illness. Also, consider attending a patient education class or joining a support group with others who are coping with this illness.

Second, invite your partner to come with you to your appointment and make it clear to the physician that you want to focus only on medication and sexual health.

Third, it is often beneficial to change your sexual pattern to reduce the impact of the illness on your sexual function. For example, if you experience arthritic pain at night and find that your body is most flexible early in the morning or after a nap, that's a better time for you to be sexual. Talk with your partner and doctor about how best to take your prescribed medications.

Remember that only rare illnesses can stop you from being sexual or control your physical body. The challenge is to adapt to the illness, medication side effects, and the sexual changes so that touch, pleasure, and sex can continue to be a positive part of your life and relationship.