Thursday, March 22, 2012

Primary Headaches & Sex

A recent study suggests that women treated for primary headaches display a higher rate of sexual symptoms and distress. The study found that 90% of women with migraines and tension-type headaches also have sexual problems, and 29% of these women are stressed about their sex lives.

The researchers observed 194 women consecutively over a 3-month period. They recruited 100 of these women. Different primary headaches were diagnosed, according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders - migraine with and without aura, and both episodic and chronic tension-type headache (CTTH). After collecting detailed pharmacological history, anxiety and depression were assessed using validating scales. Then, the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised were administered.

The study authors found that
More than 90% of the women had a median FSFI full-scale score under the validated cutoff, while 29% reported sexual distress. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) was diagnosed in 20% of the women and the pain domain score (median 2, score range 0–6) was highly affected by the head pain condition. However, the FSFI domain and full-scale scores did not significantly differ by headache diagnosis. The women with CTTH displayed a high rate of sexual distress (45.5%) and a strong negative correlation between desire, arousal, and full-scale FSFI score and number analgesics/month (r: −0.77, P = 0.006; r: −0.76, P = 0.006; and r: −0.68, P = 0.02, respectively). Depression was positively correlated with sexual distress (r: 0.63, P = 0.001) only in the women with CTTH (Sexual Function and Distress in Women Treated for Primary Headaches in a Tertiary University Center, abstract).
The study researchers concluded that "women treated for primary headaches were found to display a high rate of sexual symptoms and distress. Both migraine and tension-type headache were associated with sexual pain and HSDD [i.e., low sex drive], but women with CTTH seem to be more prone to develop sexual distress (Sexual Function and Distress in Women Treated for Primary Headaches in a Tertiary University Center, abstract).

It should be noted that many women with headaches have depression (see Migraines Linked to Depression Risk in Women) and/or anxiety as well, which can also affect one's sexual satisfaction. Various medications can also affect sexual desire.

While it is far too early to make many assumptions based on this research, it does provide an observational pilot study assessing sexual function and distress in women treated for primary headaches in a tertiary university center. Further research is needed on sexuality and female headache sufferers.

This study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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