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What is sexual dysfunction in men and women?
When you have problems with sex, doctors call it “sexual dysfunction.” It happens in both men and women. Sexual problems become more common in men and women as they age. Other factors can cause it in younger people. Stress, illness, medicines, or emotional problems can contribute to sexual dysfunction. Talk to your doctor if it lasts longer than a few months. Tell your doctor if it interferes with your relationship with your partner. Anything you tell your doctor is private. Your doctor can diagnose the problem. He or she can treat it.
Symptoms of sexual dysfunction in men and women
It is common for couples to have problems with sex at some time in their relationship.
Women have five types of sexual problems:
- Desire disorders. No longer having an interest in sex. Having less of a desire than you used to have.
- Arousal disorders. You can’t feel a sexual response in your body. You can’t stay sexually aroused.
- Orgasmic disorders. You are unable to have an orgasm or you have pain during orgasm.
- Sexual pain disorders. When you experience pain during or after sex.
- Hormone deficiency: Reduced estrogen (the primary female hormone) can affect sexual desire.
Men have four types of sexual problems:
- Erectile dysfunction: Difficulty getting or keeping an erection.
- Desire disorders No longer having an interest in sex. Having less interest than you used to have.
- Problems with ejaculation: Premature ejaculation (too early) or delayed (taking longer than normal or not at all).
- Low testosterone: Reduced levels of the male hormone, testosterone.
What causes sexual dysfunction in men and women?
Many things can cause problems in your sex life. This includes certain medicines (oral birth control and chemotherapy), diseases (diabetes or high blood pressure), excessive alcohol use or vaginal and urinary infections. Additional causes include depression, relationship problems, and abuse (current or past).
Hormones play a part in sexual dysfunction for men and women. Low male and female hormones lead to less sexual desire. Hormones decrease in men and women as they age. Female hormones can change during pregnancy, right after childbirth, or when you are breastfeeding. After menopause, many women feel less sexual desire. Also, menopause causes vaginal dryness, which can lead to pain during sex .
At any age, the stresses of everyday life can cause sexual dysfunction. Being tired from a busy job or caring for young children may affect your sexual desire. You may also be bored by a long-standing sexual routine.
How is sexual dysfunction in men and women diagnosed?
Having an honest talk with your doctor can contribute to a diagnosis. Your doctor may be able to diagnose the problem from your description of the problem, your age, and stresses in your life. He or she may do a physical exam and lab tests, as well.
Can sexual dysfunction in men and women be prevented or avoided?
The process of aging cannot be prevented. Yet, there are many things men and women can do to reduce the impact of sexual dysfunction. This includes learning more about your body and how it works. Also:
- Ask your doctor about the side effects of the medicines you take. Talk to him or her about surgeries and health conditions. Treating underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, may help.
- Talk with a counselor or mental health professional if you are depressed, stressed or having relationship issues.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption, eat healthy, and get regular exercise.
- Talk to your partner about what you like and don’t like in your sexual relationship.
- Practice “sensate focus” exercises. This is where one partner gives a massage, while the other partner says what feels good and requests changes (example: “lighter,” “faster,” etc.). Fantasizing may increase your desire.
- For women, Kegel exercises (squeezing and relaxing the muscles of your vagina) may increase arousal.
- Try sexual activity other than intercourse, such as massage, oral sex, or masturbation.
- Do not use recreational drugs or abuse opioids.
Sexual dysfunction in men and women treatment
- If desire is the problem, try changing your usual routine. Try having sex at different times of the day, or try a different sexual position. Talk with your partner about your likes and dislikes. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of the medicines you are taking and the use of hormone replacement therapy.
- Arousal disorders can be treated for women with the use a vaginal cream or sexual lubricant for dryness. If you have gone through menopause, talk to your doctor about taking estrogen or using an estrogen cream. Men who are dealing with arousal disorders should talk with their partners to discuss ways to improve arousal (such as foreplay or fantasies). Talk with your doctor about prescription treatment options (one example: Viagra). However, Viagra and hormone replacement therapy have immediate and long-term side effects.
- For women, pain during sex can be treated with hormone replacement therapy, different positions, or vaginal lubricants. For men and women, emptying your bladder before you have sex may help. Taking a warm bath before sex may help. Your doctor can help you find the cause of your pain and decide what treatment is best for you.
Living with sexual dysfunction in men and women
Depending on the cause of your sexual dysfunction, you may or may not have to live with it. Talk with your doctor about possible causes and treatments. Talk you’re your partner about reimagining your sex life. Talk with a sex therapist or counselor if needed.
Questions to ask your doctor
- I’m having sexual problems. Is there something wrong with me?
- What can I do at home to help with my sexual problems?
- Could my symptoms be a sign of a more serious condition?
- Are there medical tests that could diagnose my problem?
- I’m worried that my problems will cause tension in my relationship. What should I do?
- Is it safe for me to have sex?
- Is pregnancy a concern?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.