The findings of the study, “Association Between Sexual Dysfunction, Sleep Impairment and Depression in Women with Fibromyalgia,” were published in Sexuality and Disability.
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition characterized by widespread chronic pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, and memory and mood issues. It is estimated to affect 2 to 8% of the general population. The disorder tends to affect mostly women, especially those who are either near or undergoing menopause.
“Based on the results of previous studies, depression, anxiety, fatigue and widespread pain are the leading causative factors of sexual dysfunction in patients with FMS [fibromyalgia],” the researchers said. “Understanding the association between sexual dysfunction, sleep disorder, depression and FMS is of importance for the development of prevention and treatment strategies.”
In this study, investigators from the Bahcelievler State Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, and their colleagues, set out to determine if women with fibromyalgia have higher rates of sexual dysfunction and sleep disturbances compared with those who do not have the disorder.
The prospective cross-sectional study enrolled a total of 54 women with fibromyalgia and 41 healthy women (controls) of a similar age and body mass index (BMI). The participants were all married and had similar numbers of children. All were asked to complete four different questionnaires:
- The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), which evaluates sleep quality in older adults
- The Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (RFIQ), used to assess disease severity
- The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), to evaluate depression status
- The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), to measure sexual function in women
Results showed that women with fibromyalgia had lower FSFI scores compared with healthy women (mean of 19.29 versus 25.88), which are indicative of sexual dysfunction. In addition, women with fibromyalgia had higher depression rates compared with women from the control group (mean BDI score of 11 versus 4.5).
Moreover, investigators found that 66.6% of the women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia had a PSQI score greater than five, which indicated the presence of sleep disturbances. Only 39.3% of the women in the control group had these scores.
Correlation analyses found a positive correlation between the FSFI and RFIQ scores, indicating that impairments in sexual function are associated with disease activity. Conversely, a negative correlation was found between the FSFI and BDI scores. That suggests a relationship between sexual dysfunction and depression rates.
“Therefore, physicians who investigate the fibromyalgia syndrome in routine practice, should take the negative effects of sexual dysfunction on female patients into consideration. It is concluded that reductions in generalized pain, severity of disease, depression and sleep disorder may also reduce sexual problems in patients. Additional studies involving greater numbers of patients are necessary to evaluate the effect of fibromyalgia on sexual dysfunction and determine pathophysiological [disease] mechanisms of this disorder,” the researchers said.
The investigators noted that the study was limited to women treated at a single healthcare center in Istanbul.
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