Sexual Health Overview (cont.)
In this Article
What is the true definition of erectile dysfunction -- and what are the most common causes?
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, has a far broader definition than many couples realize. It includes, of course, not being able to obtain an erection, but also the inability to sustain an erection sufficient for intercourse, as well as the inability to ejaculate on a consistent basis.
While once believed to be largely an emotional problem, today doctors know ED is often the result of other health concerns including diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, early heart disease, prostate problems, and depression. Additionally, alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor, and in some men, cigarette smoking. Chronic stress can also play a role. In some men certain drugs can result in erectile dysfunction, most notably some high blood pressure medications and some treatments for depression.
What causes sexual dysfunction in women?
Unlike men who require physiological events to have intercourse, women have no such restrictions. As such, the most common reasons for sexual dysfunction are often based in matters of desire, sexual arousal, or sometimes painful intercourse. Some women also report an inability to have an orgasm or experience pain when achieving one.
While a decrease in desire can be caused by many things, including a negative relationship with a partner, or other life stresses, physical causes are often traced to a decrease in the hormones estrogen and testosterone that occur during menopause. Not only can this put a damper on desire, it can also cause a decrease in vaginal lubrication making it more difficult to become aroused and causing intercourse to be painful. In addition, certain illnesses, most notably a thyroid disorder or depression, can also impact a woman's desire. The inability to achieve orgasm is seldom caused by a physical problem, but more often the result of inadequate stimulation by a woman's partner.