Orgasms Can Cause Men to Contract Mysterious Flu-Like Symptoms That Scientists Can't Explain

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Some men have a medical condition that causes flu-like symptoms after ejaculation. Wikimedia Commons

A rare condition called Post-Orgasmic Illness Syndrome causes men to develop flu-like symptoms after they ejaculate.

POIS was first reported in 2002, but there's been barely any research conducted in the years since, and only around 50 cases reported in medical literature. To begin the process of better understanding exactly what the syndrome is and how it works, a team from the Department of Urology at Tulane University School of Medicine pored over the body of reputable research available, limited though it may be. Their review was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

POIS causes symptoms like those from allergies or the flu. They can appear after partnered sex, masturbation or spontaneously during sleep. Men who have suffered from such symptoms since the first time they ejaculated have what's known as primary POIS. If the symptoms arise later in life, then it's secondary POIS. Some researchers believe it's likely that POIS is an auto-immune condition, but its causes are still unclear.

As Forbes put it, the "constellation" of symptoms varies somewhat from patient to patient, but usually includes fatigue, muscle weakness, fever, sinus congestion, burning eyes and incoherent speech. Then those symptoms can in turn cause irritability and a reduced capacity for concentration.

In order to meet the criteria for an official diagnosis, a patient needs to consistently exhibit one or more of those symptoms within a few seconds to a few hours of ejaculating; symptoms last approximately two to seven days, after which they recede on their own.

"This condition is both rare and controversial," Dr. Virginia Sadock, head the Human Sexuality Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Newsweek via email.

Sadock, who was not affiliated with the research, went on to explain that post-coital headache isn't limited to men. And while this particular flu-like condition remains associated with men, the researchers did locate a study that included mentions of the condition in women, believed to be linked to certain tissues around the vagina. Those are even rarer than the cases involving men.

Another study the authors found noteworthy described POIS as often associated with premature ejaculation, meaning under 1 minute. The researchers describe POIS in the new review as a "debilitating" condition that's "underdiagnosed and under-reported."

Previously attempted treatments have included antihistamines and antidepressants, and even "hyposensitization therapy"—repeated injections of diluted semen (the patient's own) under the skin to build tolerance. Nothing is considered effective so far.