Background: Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients focuses on inflammation control and quality of life improvement. Sexuality is a major determinant of quality of life but few data exist concerning the approach of this aspect by gastroenterologists. The present study aimed to describe the approach of gastroenterologists towards the sexual function of IBD patients.
Methods: An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to gastroenterologists taking part to a continuing medical education event, followed by an email reminder 2 months later. The objective of this form was to assess the proportion of gastroenterologists addressing this issue with patients and to determine reasons for not doing so.
Results: Sixty-nine gastroenterologists participated to the survey: 84% reported never or rarely addressing sexuality with IBD patients, while 16% addressed this topic often or always. To the question “Do you think that gastroenterologists should address the subject of sex life with IBD patients?”, 93% answered “yes”. The first reason mentioned to explain the reluctance to discuss the topic was the absence of a known solution for treating sexual dysfunction (45% of answers); 29% of physicians didn't want to embarrass patients and 19% were themselves embarrassed; 9% blamed lack of time. Neither age nor gender of the gastroenterologist was associated with a different attitude. The ratio of physicians asking about sexuality was significantly higher among proctologists than gastroenterologists (55% and 9%, respectively; p>0.001).
Conclusions: Although a majority of gastroenterologists considers that sexuality is a topic to address with IBD patients, only 16% actually do so. Limited knowledge of solutions for sexual dysfunction management is the first reason explaining this gap. Gastroenterologists' training on sexual dysfunction management could help to better meet patients' expectations.