The majority of women receiving maintenance dialysis who are sexually active suffer from sexual dysfunction, according to research presented at the National Kidney Foundation.
“We know that many men with kidney disease have erectile dysfunction, but in our series of studies on quality of life issues among dialysis patients, we found that there has been less research about sexual function in women,” said senior investigator Dr. Steven D. Weisbord, a nephrologist at the University of Pittsburgh and at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
As part of their pilot study, Weisbord and colleagues surveyed 44 sexually active female dialysis patients (mean age 59 years) using the Female Sexual Function Index.
Total FSFI scores showed that 75 percent of respondents had a high degree of sexual dysfunction. Answers to individual questions indicated impairment in each of the 6 domains of sexual function (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain, and satisfaction).
“There are probably multiple causes for sexual dysfunction among women on dialysis, including effects of renal disease itself,” Weisbord said. “Also, many are on multiple medications, some of which interfere with sexual function. Plus the prevalence of depression is high in this patient population, which may play a role.”
Only 21 percent of those with sexual dysfunction had discussed the issue with a gynecologist, and none had brought up the topic with their kidney specialist or a primary care provider. Not one of the patients had received any treatment for the problem.
There are likely two main reasons for women’s disinclination to discuss their sexual problems with their doctors, the researcher said. “They may think—perhaps correctly—that there are no viable treatment options. This is a sensitive issue that many are not comfortable discussing with their doctor.”
“One of our goals is to raise awareness among kidney care providers, get them to interact more with their female patients and at the very least facilitate a formal workup for their symptoms. There are some potential treatment options, though none as established as the use of phosphodiesterase inhibitors for erectile dysfunction.”