Sexual function in endometriosis patients and their partners: effect of the disease and consequences of treatment

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Sexual function is an important aspect of health and quality of life and is influenced by both medical conditions and health-care interventions, especially when gynecologic disorders are involved. Coital pain is among the main factors that affect sexual functioning, and this symptom is reported by almost half of women suffering from endometriosis. However, sexuality is a complex phenomenon driven by social, psychological and biological/hormonal factors and the presence of endometriosis might further affect domains of sexual function and the quality of a sexual relationship.

OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE

The objective of this report is to review the current state of knowledge on the impact that endometriosis and its treatments have on the sexual function of women and their sexual partners.

SEARCH METHODS

A systematic literature search was performed to identify studies evaluating sexual function in endometriosis patients, and a narrative analysis of results is presented. The review discusses relevant quantitative and qualitative studies analyzing the effect of endometriosis and its hormonal and surgical treatments on measures of sexual function and quality of sexual relationship.

OUTCOMES

Endometriosis negatively affects different domains of sexual function, and the presence of dyspareunia is not the only determinant of sexual health in these women. Chronic pelvic pain, advanced stages of disease and the presence of physical and mental comorbidities affect sexual function, as well as personality traits and women's expectations. Although a number of studies have evaluated the effect of surgery and hormonal treatment on deep dyspareunia, overall sexual function and quality of the relationship with the partner are often under-investigated.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS

Multiple clinical and personal determinants affect sexual function in women with endometriosis, with potentially negative consequences on the sexual function of partners and quality of the relationship. Additional prospective and longitudinal investigations are warranted using specific instruments to analyze biopsychosocial variables of sexual pain in endometriosis patients and the effects that actual treatments have on measures of quality of sexual function and relationship.

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