Female sexual dysfunction refers to recurrent problems during any phase of the sexual response cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution) that causes distress or negatively affects your relationship with your partner.
The following factors tend to be related:
Physical causes of female sexual dysfunction include:
During menopause in particular, estrogen levels decrease, which can cause changes to occur in your genital tissues and your sexual responsiveness. Intercourse may become painful ( dyspareunia ), and/or it may take longer for you to achieve an orgasm.
Untreated emotional and psychological issues need to be addressed for treatment to be effective. Factors that affect sexual functioning may include:
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This condition is most common in those aged 45-64.
Factors that may increase your risk of sexual dysfunction include:
Symptoms of sexual dysfunction include experiencing personal distress because of one or more of the following:
Defining sexual dysfunction is largely dependent on your own view of sexual difficulties and your relationship with your partner.
You will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, sexual history, and the medications you take. A gynecologic exam will be done. You may also have a psychological evaluation.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done using:
Because many factors can lead to the disorder, both medical and nonmedical treatments may be recommended.
Medical treatments address the underlying conditions, and include the following:
Other treatments to improve sexual health and decreased desire include:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Female sexual dysfunction. Practice Bulletin. 2011;119.
Berman JR, Adhikari SP, Goldstein I. Anatomy and physiology of female sexual function and dysfunction. European Urology. 2000;38:20-29.
Berman JR, Berman L, Goldstein I. Female sexual dysfunction: incidence, pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment options. Urology. 1999;54(3):385-391.
Dennerstein L. How changing methods affect our understanding of female sexual function and dysfunction J Sex Med. 2010;7(7):299-300.
Female sexual dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116816/Female-sexual-dysfunction. Updated June 27, 2016. Accessed October 29, 2014.
Phillips NA. Female sexual dysfunction: evaluation and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(1).
9/16/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116816/Female-sexual-dysfunction: Huang A, Yaffe K, Vittinghoff E, et al. The effect of ultralow-dose transdermal estradiol on sexual function in postmenopausal women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198:265.e1-7.
2/17/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116816/Female-sexual-dysfunction: Shifren JL, Monz BU, Russo PA, Segreti A, Johannes CB. Sexual problems and distress in United States women: prevalence and correlates. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:970-978.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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