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Women want physicians to ask about their sexual satisfaction during visits. (Many Doctors not Asking).

MONTREAL -- Physicians rarely ask their female patients about sexual satisfaction, yet most patients think such questions are appropriate, according to results of a small survey.

"We found that most patients want their providers to ask about this. We think it should be routine and that there should be practical guidelines for this kind of questioning," Dr. Marsha Guess said at the 10th World Congress of the International Society for Sexual and Impotence Research.

In the study, 68 patients completed a sexual functioning questionnaire while at her office. Sexual satisfaction was reported as "always" in 60% of patients, "usually" in 32%, "sometimes" in 4%, and "never" in 4%, said Dr. Guess of the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and urogynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York.

A sexual function disorder was reported by 55% of patients, including orgasmic disorder (16%), arousal disorder (26%), desire disorder (16%), and pain (13%). Of those reporting sexual dysfunction, 22% reported more than one disorder.

Almost 84% of the women said they had never been asked by their doctor about sexual function, and 71% said they would like to be asked.

"The presence or absence of a diagnosed sexual dysfunction did not influence whether they wanted the health care provider to ask about this," Dr. Guess said.

Physicians may find it difficult to carve out time to ask about sexual functioning. Physicians "are so completely pressured for time, and questioning someone about sexual function takes time," said Julia Heiman, Ph.D., a psychologist in the department of psychiatry at the University of Washington, Seattle, and director of the Reproductive and Sexual Medicine Clinic there.

Dr. Heiman acknowledged that some physicians may feel discouraged about asking their patients about sexual problems because they have so few medications to offer. Still, doctors should not forget that there are proven psychosexual therapies that can be very effective for some sexual disorders. "Particularly for female orgasmic problems--not so much arousal disorders--there are effective programs for teaching women and their partners stimulation that works," she said.

In addition, physicians should bear in mind that patients with sexual dysfunction associated with antidepressant medications can be advised to lower the dose or perhaps switch to a different drug.

"It's the sexual desire disorders that are the stickiest issue for physicians to get to the bottom of. Maybe the patient's hormones are low, maybe she's depressed, maybe there are relationship issues. These things need to be examined and dealt with," she said.
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Author:Johnson, Kate
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2003
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