On post-orgasmic illness syndrome: A poorly understood illness that makes men allergic to sex

Imagine looking forward to some stress-relieving sex, only to feel overwhelmingly ill right after that climax. You may think it was a one-time thing, until it starts to happen every single time you orgasm, and you begin to have second thoughts about engaging in any sexual activity. This extremely rare phenomenon is known as post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS).

POIS was first identified in a 2002 study by Marcel D. Waldinger, a Dutch neuropsychiatrist and Drexel University professor of pharmacology. This currently untreatable condition causes flu-like symptoms in males after most or all of their ejaculations. These symptoms include confusion, the inability to speak, read, or write coherently, severe muscle pain throughout the body, severe fatigue, itchy eyes, and fever bouts. The onset of symptoms ranges from immediately to hours after orgasm, and the severity of symptoms can vary. It can last for two to seven days.

Little is known about the condition, and according to a newly published review in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews, there have been only around 50 reported cases of POIS. Other known indicators of POIS include irritability, inability to focus, patchy memory, and depression.

According to lead study author Hoang Minh Tue Nguyen, an individual who exhibits one or more of those symptoms at least 90 percent of the time is considered a likely candidate for POIS, especially if their symptoms last for two days to one week and then just as immediately disappear.

There are two known types of POIS: Primary and secondary. Primary POIS symptoms occur from the very first ejaculation, while secondary POIS develops later in life.

Of the limited data available, the most supported idea focuses on the men’s semen. Some suggest that the patients may be allergic to their own semen, or some component in it.

The condition is also reportedly linked to premature ejaculation, although the underlying mechanism is still unknown. (Related: 12 Great Foods to Stop Premature Ejaculation.)

POIS and opioids

Another theory regarding POIS links it to chemical reactions in the body (i.e. unusually high volumes of chemicals are reportedly being released during orgasm in individuals with POIS.) Hormones such as endorphins, are being produced during orgasm. Endorphins inhibit pain and produce feelings of euphoria, much like opioids. In men with POIS, these opioid-like hormones may be flooding the body, which creates an opioid withdrawal-like state when the effect wears off, in the same way someone coming down from a heroin high can experience withdrawals.

POIS often goes undiagnosed because of the limited data to go on – it’s simply so rare that most men who have it don’t know it’s a recognized condition. As a result, they don’t immediately think of seeking treatment. Moreover, the symptoms and their onset after ejaculation tend to vary from person to person.

There is also the stigma surrounding masturbation. Adolescent males reportedly often feel embarrassed and awkward trying to bring up the symptoms to their healthcare provider, which in turn suppresses good data on all kinds of sexual disorders.

POIS reportedly affects some women as well – the condition is thought to be connected to the tissue in the lower genital tract in women. However, the only verified diagnoses at present have been in men.

POIS is a debilitating condition that can easily disrupt a person’s daily life, as well as make it hard for individuals to sustain intimate, sexual relationships.

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