Here’s what you need to know about vascular health and intimacy

Couples are urged to prioritise health screenings. Picture:

Couples are urged to prioritise health screenings. Picture:

Published Feb 14, 2024


As Valentine’s Day is celebrated globally, couples, especially those between the ages of 30 and 50 are unaware of the connection between peripheral artery disease (PAD) and its impact on intimacy.

Leading vascular surgeon in South Africa, Dr Vinesh Padayachy sheds some insights on how this common yet often undiagnosed condition can profoundly affect ones sexual health and ultimately relationships.

Dr Padayachy, who practices at the Lenmed Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre in KwaZulu-Natal said PAD is characterised by by the narrowing of arteries due to plaque build-up which restricts blood flow not only to the limbs but also to the pelvic area plays a significant role in sexual dysfunction among both men and women.

“PAD impacts sexual function by reducing blood flow crucial for sexual arousal and function,” he explained emphasising the importance of awareness and early intervention.

Leading vascular surgeon in South Africa, Dr Vinesh Padayachy. Picture: Supplied.

He said the early signs of PAD include leg pain while walking and unhealing sores on the lower extremities and further stressed that sexual dysfunction, especially erectile dysfunction in men might also signal reduced blood flow.

“Early signs of PAD should not be ignored, especially those that might hint at an underlying risk,” Dr Padayachy said.

Upon diagnosis, he detailed the comprehensive approach involving physical exams, history reviews, and specific tests like the ankle-brachial index and ultrasounds to identify blockages.

Treatment options range from lifestyle changes and medication to procedures like angioplasty, all aimed at restoring blood flow and, consequently, sexual function.Dr Padayachy strongly advocates for lifestyle modifications as the cornerstone of managing PAD's effects on sexual health.

"Lifestyle changes are foundational. These measures can significantly improve vascular health and sexual function. Open communication is crucial. I encourage couples to seek counseling if they find it challenging to navigate these conversations," he said.

While treatments are personalised for men and women, Dr Padayachy said the focus remains on improving vascular health and recommended regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and quitting smoking as key strategies in the prevention of PAD.

“PAD-related sexual dysfunction can strain relationships. Addressing the issue together can strengthen the relationship and improve both partners' well-being,” he said.

Dr Padayachy urged couples to prioritise health screenings and build supportive partnerships.

“This Valentine's Day, I'd emphasise the importance of vascular health as a critical component of a healthy, fulfilling relationship,” he added.

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