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REVIEWS: Sexual Health Inquiry and Support Is a Primary Care Priority


Richard Sadovsky, MD, SUNY-Downstate Medical Center—Family Practice, 450 Clarkson Avenue Box 67, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA. Tel: (718) 270-2441; Fax: (718) 270-2125; E-mail:


The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and sexual well-being related to sexuality.” This broad definition goes beyond simply inquiring about sexual dysfunction and ideally fits the model of patient-centered primary care. As we observe that sexual health and physical health are often closely related, discussions about sexual activity can be very revealing. Sexual intimacy appears positively related to loving relationship satisfaction and stability. Sexual problems have a clear negative impact on both the quality of life and emotional state regardless of age. Learning about specific sexual dysfunctions among men can reveal a variety of as-yet-undiagnosed comorbid pathologic conditions such as: (i) depression and other emotional illnesses; (ii) psychosocial stress; (iii) actual cardiovascular disease as well as related risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and/or hyperlipidemia; (iv) hyperprolactinemia; and (v) low serum testosterone. Specific sexual dysfunctions among women can reveal pathologic conditions such as: (i) depression and other adverse imitational and psychosocial conditions; (ii) low serum estrogen or testosterone; and/or (iii) vaginal or pelvic disorders. A discussion about sexual health can be accomplished efficiently in a primary care office with the inquiring clinician having the option to deal with any sexual problems and dysfunctions directly, or to refer the patient to an appropriate specialized care source. Sadovsky R, and Nusbaum M. Sexual health inquiry and support is a primary care priority. J Sex Med 2006;3:3–11.