Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease a Risk Factor of Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is associated with several other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and more.
At first blush, there may not seem to be any obvious relation between one’s sexual function and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes the two subtypes of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, several studies have linked IBD to impaired sexual function.
IBD symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea may negatively affect a person’s self-esteem and sexual self-image. Additionally, IBD complications like fistulas (abnormal connections between two body parts), abscesses, obstructed bowels, and/or perforated colon (a hole in the colon) may necessitate surgery, which may further impact a person’s sexual function. Research has indicated that individuals with IBD may experience reduced sexual desire and a higher incidence of male and female sexual dysfunctions, but studies on this topic have conflicting results.
Recently, researchers conducted an extensive search and meta-analysis of all studies that have identified the presence (or absence) of ED in IBD patients published in the English language in or before December 2021. Their search yielded 14 studies that assessed a total of 32,858 IBD patients. Overall, they found a pooled prevalence of ED of 27% for this population.
Certain factors increased the risk of ED in IBD patients including having undergone an operation, experiencing high disease activity (the severity of a disease), and having depression. This means that people with IBD who have any of these additional circumstances may be more likely to have ED than other IBD patients.
The authors acknowledged that this study was not without limitations. Since the 14 studies included in this analysis used different tools to diagnose ED and involved patients of different ages and surgery statuses, it is difficult to make overarching conclusions based on such diverse approaches.
Nevertheless, this meta-analysis revealed a significant association between IBD and ED, which is an important consideration for IBD patients and the health care providers who are treating them. Individuals who are experiencing sexual dysfunction or sexual difficulties in conjunction with another condition like IBD should feel empowered to talk to their providers about these issues. Sexual health is an important component of a person’s overall health, so it is perfectly acceptable to voice these concerns with a trusted health care professional.
- Wu, X., Zhang, Y., Zhang, W., Liu, G., Huang, H., Jiang, H., & Zhang, X. (2022). The Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors of Erectile Dysfunction in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9(16), 950-960. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.03.615