Patients with Benign Thyroid Diseases Experience an Impaired Sex Life

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BACKGROUND: This study aimed to characterize the frequency of self-reported thyroid-related impaired sex life in patients with thyroid diseases, to examine its clinical correlates and relationship with overall quality of life (QOL), and to investigate the effect of treatment.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Two separate patient samples with benign thyroid diseases were investigated: a cross-sectional sample (759 women and 118 men) treated at two Danish university hospital outpatient clinics, in 2007-2008, and a longitudinal sample (358 women and 74 men) undergoing treatment at the abovementioned centers, during 2008-2012, evaluated before and 6 months after therapy. The thyroid-specific QOL questionnaire ThyPRO was used to measure patient-evaluated thyroid-related sex life impairment. Biochemical and clinical variables were analyzed (i.e., age, education, degree of thyroid dysfunction, comorbidity, serum thyrotropin, total thyroxine, and triiodothyronine, as well as thyroperoxidase and thyrotropin receptor antibody concentrations). The SF-36 Health Survey was used to analyze the effect of impaired sex life on overall QOL.

RESULTS: In the cross-sectional sample, 36% of women and 31% of men reported what they perceived to be thyroid-attributable impaired sex life. Women with autoimmune thyroid diseases reported more impairment than those with non-autoimmune thyroid diseases. In patients with Graves' disease lower levels of educational attainment and in patients with toxic nodular goiter comorbidities were associated with impaired sex life. Overall QOL was lower in patients with thyroid-related sex life impairment. In the longitudinal sample, 42% of women and 33% of men had impaired sex life at baseline, which improved at 6 months follow-up only in women and, when analyzing individual diagnoses separately, statistically significantly among those with autoimmune hypothyroidism. Sexual impairment was associated with low education in patients with toxic nodular goiter and with high plasma triiodothyronine concentrations in patients with Graves' disease. In autoimmune hypothyroidism, a younger age was associated with sex life impairment.

CONCLUSION: We found a high frequency of self-reported, thyroid-related sex life impairment in patients with benign thyroid diseases, especially in young women with autoimmune thyroid diseases. Self-perceived impaired sex life persisted in women treated for Graves' disease, suggesting that normalization of thyroid function was not sufficient to restore sexual function.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1261-1269
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 203837710