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Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction refers to a difficulty experienced by an individual or a couple during any stage of the sexual response cycle that inhibits satisfaction from the sexual activity.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of sexual dysfunction include:

  • Lack of sexual desire or interest in sex
  • Inability to become aroused
  • Lack of orgasm
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful intercourse

Causes

Sexual concerns are common among women and can be attributed to many different issues, both physiologic and psychological. Hormones play a significant role in regulating a woman’s sexual function. Therefore, perimenopausal and menopausal women often experience sexual problems, especially lack of sexual desire, vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.

Many women may not be aware that chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders can affect the sexual response cycle and cause sexual dysfunction as well. Additionally, the loss of sexual desire or enjoyment is a common consequence of cancer therapy and often persists after treatment is completed.

For other women, sexual dysfunction can also result from life stressors such as marital conflict, infertility issues, childbirth or an overly busy lifestyle.

Treatment Options

Despite the high prevalence of sexual dysfunction among women, few seek treatment because of embarrassment, or the belief that such symptoms are inevitable with life-phase changes. It’s important for women to understand that regardless of the cause, their sexual concerns can be successfully evaluated and treated.

To determine the cause of sexual dysfunction, your physician will perform a physical and pelvic examination, discuss your medical history and conduct a thorough evaluation of symptoms. Your physician may also order diagnostic tests to rule out any medical problems that may be contributing to the sexual problem.

Treatment for sexual dysfunction varies based on the cause. Often, women with sexual concerns benefit from a combined treatment approach that includes both behavioral and medical treatment options.

The most common non-medical treatment is sexual therapy or counseling. Couples therapy is a highly effective treatment option in helping women and men to regain sexual health and enjoyment while helping to build intimacy in the relationship. Sexual therapy generally includes education about the body’s sexual response cycle, as well as exercises and methods for enhancing intimacy and sexual enjoyment.

Common medical treatments for sexual dysfunction due to an underlying medical issue include: adjusting or switching medications that have sexual side effects, treating hormonal or thyroid issues, and treating any newly discovered medical issues. Sexual problems resulting from depression or anxiety may require counseling, as well as medication therapy. In the case of sexual pain, vaginal estrogen therapy and other medical and non-medical strategies may be recommended to help improve sexual enjoyment.

Expert Care

Through Hoag’s Sexual Medicine Program, women can obtain expert care in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction. The program provides a comprehensive approach to sexual dysfunction through individually tailored treatment programs that focus on enhancing a woman’s sexual health and wellness. For more information about sexual dysfunction, please speak with your physician, or click here to locate a Hoag-affiliated physician near you.