Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Life saving advice....

Went to (and presented at) a fascinating conference over the weekend courtesy of the Primary Care Sexual Dysfunction Society. In short, medics at the front line of British health care (general practitioners, practice nurses, therapists) often have to deal with sexual issues raised by their patients - PCSDS is an organisation to provide them with information, support and general networking.

Founded by Manchester GP Mike Callender the organisation holds its conference annually in the spring and - more or less annually - calls on me to cover what can only be described as the 'cuddly' side of the business. Perhaps a presentation on how male erectile dysfunction impacts on women partners. Perhaps a few guidelines on how to best support patients who are struggling with emotional issues. Feelings, relationships, counselling... you get the idea.

This year my contribution was twofold. First, a Cook's Tour of the psychological side of women's sexual problems, done as a two-hander with lovely Nottingham-based therapist Angela Gregory. Then - again with Angela - a debate on whether the G spot is important to women's pleasure. In between times, the medics took over, with discussions on cardiac sexology, contraceptive options, and whether one should support - or discourage - patients who want to buy their little blue pill over the Internet.

On one level, of course, all this is deeply strange. Surely everyone can see the slightly weird side of sitting in a Leicestershire business hotel on a sunny Saturday afternoon discussing whether it is advisable to investigate a male patient's sexual problems by sticking a finger up his bum - to check for prostate conditions, I hasten to add.

On the other hand, all this is also deeply important. The passion shown by all present to solving their patient's sexual problems as quickly, efficiently and supportively as possible was wonderful. The commitment displayed to giving the best possible service and generally getting it right was stunning.

Plus, I came away with one literally life-saving nugget - courtesy of Professor Graham Jackson - which I would encourage all readers of this blog to take on board for themselves if they are male (or for their male partners if they are female). It is this. There seems to be a direct link between a man's developing erectile dysfunction and his developing - an average of three years later - the sort of heart condition that results in a quick and fatal heart attack. And - this bit's vital - that link exists whether or not the man has had any worrying cardiac symptoms. Erectile dysfunction is - in the most literal sense of the words - an early warning system.

In other words, if he can't get it up - and that fact isn't linked to a night on the ale or a previously diagnosed medical problem - he should proceed immediately to his GP and get his cardia health checked out. Don't delay. This piece of information, courtesy of the PCSDS, could save a life...

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