Many who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also experience sexual dysfunction, but healthcare professionals often fail to address it, according to a recent study. Both physicians and patients feel squeamish about raising the issue. Sometimes patients are young, meaning this dysfunction puts even more strain on their lives.
Researchers in the Crohn’s and Colitis Program at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City conducted the study. The team was led by director Tauseef Ali, M.D. Patients with different forms of IBD participated in the study. 29 of them had Crohn’s disease while 18 had ulcerative colitis (UC). Male participants were asked to fill out the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF). This was to determine the level of functioning in each, their energy level and rate of depression. 66% of male participants who had IBD also suffered some level of sexual dysfunction. 81% had a lower sex drive, 52.4% had ED, 23% found reaching orgasm difficult and 76.2% were unsatisfied with their sex lives.
Researchers found that those patients suffering from depression tended to have less sexual functioning. Among the participants, researchers found that only 8% had discussed the issue with their doctor. Ali said physicians should begin asking patients about their sexual functioning when a patient comes in for an appointment, as less functionality equates to a lower quality of life.
Although the research team found this connection, there are still many barriers. A shortage in primary care physicians today means each doctor sees a larger number of patients, and appointments are often brief. Physicians can also feel apprehensive about broaching the subject. Luckily, there are many options for treating sexual dysfunction today. Doctors on the other hand should broach the subject, explain what options patients have, the limits of scientific knowledge on sexual functioning and extend a referral if need be. When bringing it up, physicians need to be nonjudgmental, assure confidentiality and ask specific questions. Researchers also suggest that gastroenterologists now also begin inquiring about the sexual functioning of their patients, particularly if they have IBD.
If you’re struggling with sexual dysfunction or ED, contact a doctor today.