Many women undergoing chronic hemodialysis (HD) are sexually inactive, few describe sexual difficulty, and most are satisfied with their sexual life—including women who are not interested in sex, according to a new study.

The study, led by Steven D. Weisbord, MD, MSc, of the Renal Section of the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, involved 125 women on HD who completed a total of 1,721 assessments between 2009 and 2011 regarding their sex life.

As Dr. Weisbord and colleagues explained in their report in Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (published online ahead of print) research has shown sexual dysfunction to be common among women undergoing chronic HD, but those studies did not differentiate between sexual dysfunction/difficulty and sexual inactivity. Dr. Weisbord’s group separated these measures in order to determine the prevalence of true sexual dysfunction among women receiving chronic HD.

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Female sexual function was prospectively assessed for six months and quarterly thereafter as part of a clinical trial of symptom management strategies in patients undergoing chronic HD. To gather information, Dr. Weisbord and colleagues added questions to the Female Sexual Function Index that distinguished sexual dysfunction/difficulty from sexual inactivity. Beginning in month 7 and on a monthly basis thereafter, patients were asked three questions about sexual activity, difficulty, and satisfaction.

Answers on 89% of the quarterly assessments were consistent with sexual dysfunction—largely due to sexual activity, which was reported on 82% of the quarterly assessments. Lack of interest in sex and lack of a partner were the most frequently described reasons for sexual inactivity, reported in 715 (43%) and 647 (39%) of 1,663 responses. Sexual difficulty, however, was rarely reported, cited in only 36 (2%) of responses.

Women were moderately to very satisfied with their sexual life in 1,020 of 1,582 assessments (64%) and in 513 of 671 (76%) assessments in which lack of interest was cited as a reason for sexual inactivity.

Women did not appear to be particularly interested in learning about the causes of and treatment for sexual dysfunction, expressing such a desire in just 5% of all assessments.

“Sexual inactivity is particularly common yet does not appear to be bothersome to many women on dialysis,” Dr. Weisbord pointed out in a statement from the American Society of Nephrology. “Carefully considering patients’ perspectives and preferences is essential to evaluating the presence and importance of a condition like sexual dysfunction.”