News Release

Troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity is common in COPD patients

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Thoracic Society

ATS 2012, SAN FRANCISCO – Troublesome dyspnea that limits sexual activity is common among older patients with COPD, according to a new study from Denmark.

"We compared measures of well-being, depression and sexual function among older patients with severe COPD or heart failure, both of which are associated with dypnea during exertion," said Ejvind Frausing Hansen, MD, chief physician at Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark. "A significantly higher percentage of COPD patients than heart failure patients reported having troublesome dypnea during sexual activity."

"Dyspnea at exertion can also limit daily activities and increase the risk of poor well-being, social isolation, and depression," Dr. Hansen continued. "Indeed, we found high levels of reported depression and poor well-being among both COPD and heart failure patients." The results will be presented at the ATS 2012 International Conference in San Francisco.

The researchers developed a self-administered questionnaire that included the World Health Organization-Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5), the Beck Depression Inventory, and questions about sexual function. The questionnaire was completed by 39 COPD patients (mean age of 66) and 22 patients with heart failure (mean age of 64).

Troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity was reported by 44% of COPD patients, compared with 5% of heart failure patients. Dypnea was reported to be a limiting factor for sexual activity by 56% of COPD patients and 27% of heart failure patients. Similar percentages of COPD and heart failure patients reported an inadequate or very inadequate sex life (38% vs. 32%), signs of depression (34% vs. 37%), and poor well-being (33% vs. 32%).

"An adequate sexual life is important also for elderly people, and this topic has gained very little focus in research, compared to the research in other measures of well-being," said Dr. Hansen.

"Patients with COPD are known to have a high prevalence of sexual problems," concluded Dr. Hansen. "Our study shows that depression and poor well-being are also common in these patients. In our group of patients, dypnea that limits sexual activity was more common among COPD patients than heart failure patients."


"Sexual Dysfunction, Depression And Well-Being Among Patients With COPD Or Heart Failure" (Session B60, Monday, May 21, 8:15 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Area K, Moscone Center; Abstract 32631)

* Please note that numbers in this release may differ slightly from those in the abstract. Many of these investigations are ongoing; the release represents the most up-to-date data available at press time.

Abstract 32631
Sexual Dysfunction, Depression And Well-Being Among Patients With COPD Or Heart Failure
Type: Scientific Abstract
Category: 12.02 - Functional and Patient Reported Outcomes (NUR)
Authors: M.F. Hansen1, J. Willemoes1, S.L. Nielsen1, E. Kristensen2, A. Giraldi2, E.F. Hansen1; 1Hvidovre Hospital - Hvidovre/DK, 2Rigshospitalet - Copenhagen/DK

Abstract Body

Background: Patients with COPD and heart failure (HF) both have dyspnea at exertion, which limits their daily activities and increases the risk of poor well-being, social isolation, depression and sexual dysfunction. We have previously shown a high prevalence of depression and sexual problems among patients with severe or very severe COPD.

Aim: We aimed to compare measures of well-being, depression and sexual function among male and female patients with COPD and patients with HF.

Methods: We included patients less than 75 years of age with either severe COPD or with HF. Patients were recruited from bed unit, outpatient clinic or rehabilitation unit. Patients fulfilled a self-administered questionnaire with the WHO-five well-being index, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and questions about sexual function.

Results: The questionnaire was completed by 39 patients with COPD (Male/Female: 21/18, Age: 66 years, FEV1: 32 %, MRC: 3) and 22 patients with HF (Male/Female: 16/6, Age 64 years, EF: 32 %, NYHA: 2). Significantly more patients with COPD than with HF reported having troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity (44 % vs. 5 %, p=0.001), and that dyspnea was a limiting factor for their sexual activity (56 % vs. 27 %, p=0.04). Sexual life was inadequate or very inadequate for 38 % of patients with COPD and 32 % of patients with HF (NS). Signs of depression were seen frequently in both groups (COPD: 34 %, HF: 37 %, NS). Poor well-being was also prevalent in both groups (COPD: 33 %, HF: 32 %, NS).

Conclusion: Troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity is very common among patients with COPD and is a limiting factor in their sexual life. Depression and reduced well-being is common among as well patients with COPD as patients with HF.

Funded by: Danish Lung Association

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