Men and their female partners experience Peyronie’s disease in different ways, experts say.
While the condition affects men specifically, a woman’s sex life is affected, too.
Peyronie’s disease is characterized by areas of hardened tissue called plaques that form on the penis, just below the skin’s surface. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why the plaques form, but some believe they are the result of a wound that doesn’t heal properly. Because the plaques aren’t flexible, the penis can curve significantly when erect, making vaginal intercourse difficult.
Peyronie’s disease typically has two phases. The first phase, called the acute phase, is when symptoms begin. Plaques begin to form and the penis starts to bend. During the second phase (called the chronic phase), these symptoms stabilize. The curvature remains, but it usually doesn’t get worse at this point.
It’s not unusual for men with Peyronie’s disease to feel anxious, sad, and frustrated about their situation. They may lose sexual confidence and worry about pleasing their partner. Some couples have sex less frequently and grow apart.
What reaction do female partners have to Peyronie’s disease? That question hadn’t been widely investigated, but the new study provides some insight.
The researchers worked with 44 men with Peyronie’s disease who were having their first consultation with a doctor to address it. The men’s female partners accompanied them to their appointment. Each member of the couple completed questionnaires about the effects of Peyronie’s disease on their sexual relationship.
Most of the men were in the chronic phase of Peyronie’s disease, with a median curve of 75 degrees.
Most couples said that the effects of Peyronie’s disease made vaginal intercourse difficult for them and that they had sex less often because of it. Almost half of the men and about a third of the women felt at least moderate discomfort or pain during vaginal intercourse.
About a quarter of the women met the criteria for a sexual dysfunction diagnosis. However, fewer women than men were “very” or “extremely” bothered by the appearance of the curved penis. Women were also less likely to feel “very” or “extremely” bothered by the curvature during intercourse.
The authors weren’t sure why men were more bothered by Peyronie’s disease than women were. But it’s possible that they felt inadequate or embarrassed about their sexual performance, they said.
The specific amount and direction of penile curvature weren’t linked to sexual difficulties for the couples, the authors added.
The researchers encouraged communication between couples and the involvement of female partners in Peyronie’s disease decision making and treatment.
They also acknowledged that their research pertained to heterosexual, cisgender couples having vaginal intercourse. Therefore, the findings might not be applicable to couples with other sexual orientations or gender identities, and further research is needed in this area.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Farrell, M. Ryan, MD, MPH, et al.
“Peyronie’s Disease and the Female Sexual Partner: A Comparison of the Male and Female Experience”
(Full-text. Published: October 14, 2020)