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June 22, 2010
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Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond
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Get your copy of Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond

The physical transformations your body undergoes as you age have a major influence on your sexuality. This report will take you through the stages of sexual response and explain how aging affects each. You’ll also learn how chronic illnesses, common medications, and emotional issues can influence your sexual capabilities. Finally, you’ll find a detailed discussion of various medical treatments, counseling, and self-help techniques to address the most common types of sexual problems.

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Yoga for a better sex life?

Rooted in Indian philosophy, yoga is an ancient method of relaxation, exercise, and healing that has gained a wide following in the United States. It has been shown to ease anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, improve joint pain and function, and relieve pain and many other mental and physical complaints. It may come as no surprise, then, that yoga may also serve to enhance sexual function. According to a study published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (Nov. 12, 2009), regular yoga practice improves several aspects of sexual function in women, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction.

The study involved 40 healthy women, ages 22 to 55, who were enrolled in a yoga program in India. Most of the women were married, and all were sexually active. Subjects were instructed in a protocol of 22 yoga poses, or asanas, that are believed to have positive effects on abdominal and pelvic muscle tone, digestion, joint function, and mood. Various poses were modified for women who weren’t able to perform the full versions. Each participant filled out a standard sexual-function questionnaire at the beginning and end of the 12-week program, which featured an hour of yoga practice each day, followed by breathing and relaxation.

At the end of the program, the researchers found improvements in the women’s sexual-function scores in the six domains that were assessed (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain, and overall satisfaction), particularly among women over age 45, who showed the greatest improvements in arousal, lubrication, and pain. Nearly 75% of the women said they were more satisfied with their sexual life following the yoga training. Major limitations of this study were its small size and the lack of a control group. The researchers, who are based at universities in New Delhi and Mumbai, say they are recruiting women for a larger study, which will include a control group.

Getting started

If you’d like to try yoga, classes and video instruction are widely available. There are many different styles of yoga, and while many are safe, some can be strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. If you’re older, out of shape, or have physical limitations, you may want to check in with a clinician before trying yoga. You may also want to look into Iyengar (pronounced eye-en-gar) yoga, which uses props such as blankets, blocks, benches, and belts to assist in performing asanas. The idea behind Iyengar yoga is to help people experience asanas to the fullest extent possible despite physical limitations or lack of experience.

Examples of yoga poses to enhance sexual function

three yoga poses

Three of the 22 yoga poses performed in the sexual function study were, from left to right, trikonasana (triangle pose), bhujangasana (the snake), and ardha matsyendra mudra (half spinal twist).


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The Aging Eye: Preventing and treating eye disease
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Get your copy of The Aging Eye: Preventing and treating eye disease

As we age, problems with eyesight become more common. Despite this, many people are not conscientious about caring for their eyes. Learn how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of specific eye diseases—cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy—and what steps you can take to prevent or treat them before your vision deteriorates further.

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Is there a solution for watery eyes?

Q. I am 63 and have tears running down my face at odd times. Most of the information I’ve found on the Internet is about infants with blocked tear ducts. Can you provide some information about tearing in adults?

A. Watery eyes are a common problem for adults, and there’s often an effective way of treating them.

First, a little background. Your lacrimal glands, which are located above the eye at the edge of the eye socket, are continually making small amounts of tears at a steady rate. Blinking helps spread the moisture over the front of your eyes, creating a clear, protective film that keeps the eye from getting irritated by dust and dirt and helps fend off infections. But once the fluid has served its purpose, or if there’s too much of it, an ingenious drainage system gets rid of the excess. Watery, or teary, eyes develop when more fluid is produced than can be drained away; essentially, it’s a plumbing problem.

In my experience, people who seek medical attention for watery eyes usually have one of four problems. Sometimes the openings to the tear ducts close up even if the ducts themselves are open. Ophthalmologists call this punctal stenosis. Think about the drain in your sink. Even if the drainpipe is okay, if the drain opening is too small, water will have a hard time getting into the pipe and will back up. Punctal stenosis usually can be fixed in a matter of minutes with a procedure that requires only local anesthetic.

Often, though, the problem is a blockage farther down the tear duct — in the pipe itself. Tear duct blockages can be a side effect of some of the drugs used to treat cancer, such as docetaxel, a commonly used treatment for breast cancer. A facial injury can also cause the tear duct to become blocked. However, most blockages of the tear duct don’t have an identifiable reason — it just happens. Usually this occurs in women after menopause. Doctors have been performing operations to open blocked ducts since the mid-1800s, so this is familiar ophthalmic territory. On the other hand, it’s not a minor procedure: it involves general anesthesia and requires cutting into the bone. There are variations on the theme, but the basic notion is to repair the drainage system by creating a little passageway around the blockage.

A third reason for watery eyes is, ironically, dry eyes. If the tear gland doesn’t provide enough moisture on a constant basis, the eyes dry out, become irritated, and cause the gland to overcompensate, producing a gush of tears that floods the eye. Many conditions cause dry eyes, and sometimes the underlying condition itself can be treated. But often it’s a matter of treating the dry eyes themselves. The over-the-counter “artificial tears” products often work quite well. But if they don’t, one alternative is cyclosporine, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that can help cases of dry eye that aren’t amenable to other treatments.

Finally, people can develop a watery eye if the lower eyelid is lax and droops away from the eye. When this happens, the tears are not pumped into the tear duct, but instead accumulate on the surface of the eye. This condition is easily fixed by tightening the eyelids surgically. Eyelid surgery has become popular for cosmetic reasons, but it’s an option to consider as a medical treatment if your eyelids are so lax that you are excessively teary.

Most causes of watery eyes can be fixed. Talk with your ophthalmologist. He or she will likely refer you to an oculoplastic specialist — an ophthalmologist who has done additional training in eyelid and tear duct surgery. That doctor will be able to test for the things that cause watery eyes and choose a treatment plan based on the cause.

— Dr. Mark Hatton, Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, as interviewed by the Harvard Health Letter