Inventories for male and female sexual dysfunctions

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Abstract

Several illnesses can distress sexual health and disrupt sexuality, an integral part of being human. These illnesses are not different in origin from those affecting other health areas, but, because sexuality is involved, effective communication and empathy between the physician and the patient may be severely hindered by negative feelings such as anxiety and guiltiness. A detailed general and sexual history is, however, an essential step in evaluating patients for sexual dysfunction (SD). Finding the correct way to ask questions and to decode answers on sexual health and disease might be difficult and, in some way, embarrassing. Hence, validated and standardized sexual inventories might help physicians confront SD. These case-history tools have the advantage of being standardized, easy to administer and score, relatively unobtrusive and substantially inexpensive. This review describes the main sexual inventories hitherto described and validated in different sexual areas of health and disease, and the advantages of the two main formats available to clinicians, that is, structured interviews (SIs) and self-report questionnaires (SRQs). Both types of inventories are composed of a set of standardized, written probe questions requiring a finite number of responses, driven by an interviewer (SIs) or by the patients themselves (SRQs). SRQs allow more time and intimacy to organize and develop answers to delicate questions, as are those on sexual life. In addition, SRQs could also be very useful in quantifying disease severity and treatment outcome. On the other hand, SIs help achieve a better patient-physician relationship and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

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