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COPD Can Put a Damper on Sex Life

MONDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Shortness of breath during sexual activity is common for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new, small study finds.

This breathlessness, also known as dyspnea, can inhibit healthy sex lives and is more common among COPD patients than even heart failure patients. COPD is a term used to describe certain lung conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

"We compared measures of well-being, depression and sexual function among older patients with severe COPD or heart failure, both of which are associated with dyspnea during exertion," said Dr. Ejvind Frausing Hansen, chief physician at Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark. "Dyspnea at exertion can also limit daily activities and increase the risk of poor well-being, social isolation, and depression," he said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.

In conducting the study, the researchers asked 39 patients with COPD and 22 patients with heart failure about their well-being, symptoms of depression and sexual function.

The average age of the COPD patients was 66 years and the average age of the heart failure patients was 64, the study authors noted.

Shortness of breath during sexual activity was reported by 44 percent of the COPD patients. In contrast, only 5 percent of the heart failure patients said they had this problem, the investigators found. And, 56 percent of COPD patients said shortness of breath limited their sexual activity, compared to just 27 percent of heart failure patients.

About one-third of COPD and heart failure patients reported problems with well-being. Signs of depression were reported by 34 percent of those with COPD and 37 percent of those with heart failure. An inadequate sex life was reported by 38 percent of those with COPD versus 32 percent of those with heart failure.

"Patients with COPD are known to have a high prevalence of sexual problems," said Hansen. "Our study shows that depression and poor well-being are also common in these patients. In our group of patients, dyspnea that limits sexual activity was more common among COPD patients than heart failure patients."

The study's findings were scheduled for presentation Monday at an American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco.

Data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about COPD.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 21, 2012

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