COPD Limits Sex

COPD patients suffer sexual problems due to shortness of breath

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having sex can be quite the workout. It can take the wind right out of you. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), shortness of breath might be an even bigger problem during sex.

Dyspnea (shortness of breath) often gets in the way of sexual activity among older adults with COPD.

"Talk to your doctor if COPD is limiting your sex life."

"Patients with COPD are known to have a high prevalence of sexual problems," says Ejvind Frausing Hansen, M.D., chief physician at Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark and lead author of the current study.

"Our study shows that depression and poor well being are also common in these patients. In our groups of patients, dyspnea that limits sexual activity was more common among COPD patients than heart failure patients," says Dr. Hansen.

For their study, the researchers compared measures of well being, depression and sexual function among older adults with COPD or heart failure. Both of these conditions have been linked to shortness of breath during exercise or exertion.

"A significantly higher percentage of COPD patients than heart failure patients reported having troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity," says Dr. Hansen.

Forty-four percent of COPD patients said they had troublesome dyspnea during sex. In comparison, only five percent of heart failure patients reported troublesome dyspnea during sexual activity.

Dyspnea limited sex for both COPD and heart failure patients. However, it was a bigger issue for COPD patients. Fifty-six percent of COPD patients said dyspnea limited sexual activity, while 27 percent of heart failure patients said shortness of breath got in the way of sex.

According to Dr. Hansen, a healthy sex life is not only important for younger adults, but also for elderly people.

"[This] topic has gained very little focus in research, compared to the research in other measures of well being," says Dr. Hansen.

The study's results also show that a similar amount of COPD and heart failure patients said they had a poor sex life, signs of depression and poor well being.

"Dyspnea at exertion can also limit daily activities and increase the risk of poor well being, social isolation, and depression," Dr. Hansen explains. "Indeed, we found high levels of reported depression and poor well being among both COPD and heart failure patients."

The researchers used a questionnaire to assess patients' levels of well being. The questionnaire was completed by 39 COPD patients and 22 heart failure patients.

The study was presented at the American Thoracic Society's 2012 International Conference in San Francisco.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 7, 2012
Last Updated:
October 19, 2012