Men with irritable bowel syndrome at higher risk for erectile dysfunction

Men with irritable bowel syndrome at higher risk for erectile dysfunction

Having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is bad enough but men with it, they may find themselves dealing with an additional problem – erectile dysfunction (ED). IBS is an umbrella term for symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and anus) which is often accompanied with abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. ED occurs when a man is unable to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual activity.

 Digital composite of highlighted blue healthy intestine of woman / health care & medicine concept

Over the years, several studies have found that men diagnosed with IBS are more prone to also experiencing ED at higher rates than the average man.  One such study of Taiwanese men conducted research on more than 85,000 men split into two groups. The first group included over 17,500 men with IBS and the second group had over 70,000 men around the same age who did not have IBS.

Researchers found that the men with IBS were almost 3 times more likely to have ED when compared to those without IBS. The risk for ED was greater for men who had conditions that often accompany IBS, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and depression.

A more recent prospective incidence cohort study published in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, studied 69 men newly diagnosed with IBS who completed the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) which measure 5 dimensions of sexual function over the past 4 weeks. The group of men included 41 men who had Crohn’s disease and 28 men with ulcerative colitis. The mean age of the group of men at diagnosis was 43.4 years.  Results showed that 39% of men had global sexual dysfunction and 94% had ED.

What both studies reveal is that physicians should be aware of the high prevalence and risk factors of sexual dysfunction in men with IBS. All men with IBS should be evaluated for sexual functioning and recommendations for treatment using medications and behavioral therapies when necessary.

Treating erectile dysfunction

Treatment options for ED have significantly improved over the past few years and new research and medications continue to increase treatment choices. Treatment offered depend on the expertise of the physician – for example, a urologist may offer a man a greater scope of treatments than a family physician.

The first step in addressing ED is to identify controllable risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol abuse, stress, fatigue, depression, the adjustment of prescription medications, etc.).  Besides addressing possible risk factors affecting a man’s ability to achieve an erection, most men with ED will need an additional form of treatment such as sexual counseling and education, oral medications, injection therapy, vacuum devices and surgical treatments.

Before choosing the best treatment for each individual man, men need to consider what the best options for them to try first are. The risk and benefits of all treatment options should be discussed with a doctor before any mode of treatment is chosen, as patient and partner satisfaction is the primary goal.