Background: Sexuality is important when assessing quality of life (QoL), which is often disturbed in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, sexuality is not addressed in most QoL questionnaires.
Aims: To evaluate the prevalence and predisposing factors of sexual dysfunction among IBD patients, and their own perception.
Methods: A postal survey was conducted in IBD patients 25-65 years of age from two tertiary centres. Patients were asked to provide a control of the same gender and age without IBD. The questionnaire assessed patient perception of the impact of IBD on their sexuality, and also allowed calculation of the Erectile Function International Index or the Female Sexual Function Index.
Results: A total of 355 patients and 200 controls were available for the final analysis. Both groups were comparable except for a higher proportion of individuals who had been treated for depression among patients. Half of the female and one-third of the male patients considered that both sexual desire and satisfaction worsened after IBD diagnosis. As compared to controls, both men and women with IBD showed significantly lower scores in sexual function indexes, but a higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction was only noticed among women. Independent predictors of sexual dysfunction among IBD patients were the use of corticosteroids in women, and the use of biological agents, depression and diabetes in men.
Conclusions: Sexuality is often disturbed in IBD patients, particularly among women. Many factors seem to contribute to worsened intimacy. Sexuality should be considered when QoL is assessed in these patients.