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.
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
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
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
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.
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.