OBJECTIVES: To quantify the extent of self-reported sexual and relationship problems in people with Parkinson's disease (PD).
METHODS: A cross-sectional correlation design was used. All people with idiopathic PD, according to the UK Brain Bank criteria, who were known to the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust PD service, were asked to participate. Those who consented were assessed by a research nurse during a six month period using a series of rating scales, including the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), the PD Questionnaire-39, the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Szasz sexual functioning scale and, for those in long-term relationships, the Golombok Rust Inventory of Marital State.
RESULTS: Concern over sexual function was reported in 22 (25%) of the 88 participants in the study. Males (p = 0.001) and younger people with PD (p = 0.001) were significantly more likely to report problems with sexual function. Gender (p = 0.007) and UPDRS score (p = 0.045) were significant independent predictors of relationship problems. Males with PD and those with increasing functional problems (UPDRS score) were more likely to report problems in their relationship. Disease duration and levels of anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale) were not associated with sexual or relationship problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Sexual and relationship dysfunction was a problem for many people in this study, but these problems were unlikely to be volunteered unless specifically enquired about. Problems were apparent across all age groups and genders.