Original Article

Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 1636-1646

First online:

Comprehensive Self-Management Reduces the Negative Impact of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms on Sexual Functioning

  • Margaret D. EugenioAffiliated withDepartment of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, University of Washington
  • , Sang-Eun JunAffiliated withCollege of Nursing, Keimyung University
  • , Kevin C. CainAffiliated withDepartment of Biostatistics, Office for Nursing Research, University of Washington
  • , Monica E. JarrettAffiliated withDepartment of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, University of Washington
  • , Margaret M. HeitkemperAffiliated withDepartment of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, University of Washington Email author 

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Women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) report sexual dysfunction. Comprehensive self-management (CSM) intervention has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal, psychological, and somatic symptoms in IBS women. Whether this intervention also reduces sexual dysfunction is not known.


We sought to compare demographic and clinical factors in IBS women with and without sexual dysfunction as defined by the Arizona sexual experiences scale (ASEX) and to test the effects of CSM treatment on sexual dysfunction scores and on the sexual relations subscale of an IBS quality of life (IBSQOL) scale which measures the effect of IBS on sexual QOL.


IBS (Rome II) women enrolled in a randomized clinical trial of CSM treatment were characterized as having sexual dysfunction (N = 89) or not (N = 86) at baseline based on ASEX criteria. Baseline characteristics and symptoms were compared between the two groups. Post-intervention changes were compared between the CSM and the usual care arms of the randomized trial.


Women meeting ASEX criteria for sexual dysfunction were older, had higher lifetime depression and antidepressant use, more primary care/MD visits, fewer mental healthcare visits, and greater sleep disturbance than those without sexual dysfunction. No significant group differences in gastrointestinal or somatic symptoms were observed. Compared with usual care treatment, CSM increased sexual QOL scores and had a weaker effect on ASEX scores.


Severity of IBS symptoms at baseline did not differ between IBS women with or without sexual dysfunction. The CSM intervention can reduce the effect of IBS on sexual QOL.


Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale Irritable bowel syndrome Sexual dysfunction Women