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Sexual Difficulties or Dysfunction

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Both men and women can experience sexual difficulties or sexual dysfunction at any time in their sexually active lives. There are many emotional and physical reasons that a woman may experience sexual difficulty, caused by a dysfunction.

So, when does a lack of sex drive become coined “sexual dysfunction?” Sexual dysfunction is persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire. Sexual dysfunction is not uncommon and can occur occasionally throughout your life. There are many possible causes and symptoms, most of which are treatable. It’s important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction

You may be experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction if you experience one or more of the following and you're distressed about it:

  • Your desire to have sex is low or absent.
  • You can't maintain arousal during sexual activity, or you don't become aroused despite a desire to have sex.
  • You cannot experience an orgasm.
  • You have pain during sexual contact.

Causes and Risk Factors of Sexual Dysfunction

Several factors may contribute to sexual difficulty, dissatisfaction or dysfunction. Because sexuality is complex, the following factors tend to be interrelated:

  • Physical conditions such as arthritis, urinary or bowel difficulties, pelvic surgery, fatigue, headaches, other pain problems.
  • Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
  • Certain medications, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines and chemotherapy drugs, can decrease your sex drive and your body's ability to experience orgasm.
  • Lower estrogen levels lead to changes in your genital tissues and your sexual responsiveness.
  • Hormonal changes after giving birth and during breast-feeding lead to vaginal dryness and can affect your desire to have sex.
  • Untreated anxiety or depression can cause or contribute to sexual dysfunction, as can long-term stress.

Tests to Diagnosis Sexual Dysfunction

Although you might be reluctant to talk about your sexual concerns, having an honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual history and current problems can help lead to a diagnosis and treatment plan that can help you.

Before the specific cause of anyone’s sexual dysfunction can be determined, a complete medical history and physical exam must be performed.

In addition, your doctor may recommend:

  • A pelvic exam may reveal physical changes that could be diminishing your sexual enjoyment, such as thinning of your genital tissues, decreased skin elasticity, scarring or pain.
  • Blood tests to rule out other conditions that may cause or contribute to your symptoms.

Your doctor may also refer you to a counselor or therapist specializing in sexual and relationship problems.

Treatments and Therapies for Sexual Dysfunction

Because sexual dysfunction often has a combination of causes, your doctor will likely recommend a treatment plan that addresses your medical issues as well as emotional factors.

In addition to relationship and emotional recommendations such as counseling, your doctor might recommend medical treatments to address underlying causes:

  • Adjusting or changing medications that have sexual side effects.
  • Treating thyroid problems or other hormonal conditions.
  • Optimizing treatment for depression or anxiety.
  • Strategies to help with pelvic pain or other pain problems.
  • Localized estrogen therapy using a vaginal ring or topical cream to improve vaginal tone and elasticity, increasing vaginal blood flow, enhancing lubrication, and having a positive effect on brain function and mood factors that impact sexual response.

Surgical Procedures for Sexual Dysfunction

If the doctor discovers that your sexual function is caused by a physical issue, surgery may be recommended. It’s true, if your sexual dysfunction is caused by physical or structural abnormalities in your pelvic region or organs, such as organ prolapse, uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts, surgery might help.

Surgical options will depend on the condition affecting your sexual dysfunction.

If sexual dysfunction is affecting your love life, contact A Place for Women to discuss treatment options.