Sexual dysfunction is known as recurrent or persistent problems with sexual response, desire, orgasm, or pain that can potentially create a strain in relationships. Sexual dysfunction can occur in men and women. Female sexual dysfunction may include problems with sexual desire, arousal, attaining an orgasm, painful spasms of the vaginal muscles causing contraction of the vagina, and painful intercourse. Female sexual dysfunction may be caused by multiple causes and treatment often involves more than one approach.
Sexual dysfunction in women is fairly common. Around 43% of women experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. However, some may have difficulties throughout their lives and this can occur at any stage of life. It may either occur only during some specific sexual situations or during all sexual situations.
What is normal female sexual function?
Normal sexual function and response involve the mind and body. A woman can have problems at any stage of sexual function
- Motivation or desire: This is required to engage in sexual activity or to continue it. Sexual desire could be triggered by thoughts, words, sights or touch and varies with each woman.
- Arousal: Arousal is the sexual excitement that is felt and involves a physical element. The blood flow increases to the genital area, the vaginal wall starts to swell and vaginal secretions increase.
- Orgasm: Orgasm is the peak of sexual excitement. There is increased muscle tension throughout the body and the muscles around the vagina start contracting rhythmically.
- Resolution: This occurs following orgasm or sexual activity. There is widespread muscular relaxation throughout the body and a feeling of well-being.
What causes female sexual dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction can occur due to various physical, hormonal and psychological causes or a combination of multiple factors. Factors contributing to sexual dysfunction include
- Physical: Several medical conditions and major illnesses, such as cancer, chronic pain, severe arthritis, physical injuries, diabetes, heart diseases, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis and bladder problems can lead to sexual dysfunction. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines or chemotherapy drugs, can affect sexual function.
- Hormonal: Decline in estrogen levels after menopause can lead to changes in the genital tissues, such as dryness and decreased elasticity, which can cause pain during intercourse. Sexual desire may also decrease after menopause. A decrease in estrogen leads to decreased blood flow to the genitals. Women also have hormonal imbalance after childbirth and while breastfeeding, which can cause sexual dysfunction.
- Psychological and/or social: Untreated psychological conditions like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), history of sexual abuse, stress, insecurity, body image issues or depression can cause or aggravate sexual dysfunction. Having problems with other aspects of the relationship, such as cultural and religious beliefs, may also contribute to sexual dysfunction.
How is female sexual dysfunction treated?
Sexual dysfunction requires treatment only if one is bothered by it. If it is not bothersome, it doesn’t require treatment because it doesn’t affect the health of the body.
Treatment varies depending on the symptoms and causes of sexual dysfunction. Most women require a combined treatment approach that treats medical, psychological and relationship problems that contribute to sexual dysfunction.
Nonmedical treatment options
- Communicating openly with the partner about sexual preferences or resolving conflicts can solve most relationship problems that may be contributing to sexual dysfunction.
- Counseling: Consulting with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist can help treat psychological and emotional problems or relationship problems contributing to sexual dysfunction.
- Lifestyle modifications: Lifestyle modifications include
- Vaginal lubricants: Vaginal lubricants can reduce dryness, pain and discomfort during intercourse.
- Using a device: Stimulate arousal by using a vibrator over the clitoris.
Medical treatment for female sexual dysfunction
Certain medications can cause sexual dysfunction. The doctor may prescribe an alternative medicine or adjust the dose of such medications. Sexual dysfunction caused due to hormones and other medical illnesses may require medical treatment, which includes
- Hormone therapy: Localized estrogen therapy is administered in the form of creams, vaginal rings or tablets. This improves vaginal dryness, tone and elasticity and increases blood flow locally. There are also medications that modulate estrogen receptors, reducing pain during sex. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help reduce the symptoms of menopause throughout the body, including the genitals.
- Androgen therapy: Testosterone is an androgen that affects sexual function in women as well, but the use of testosterone to treat female dysfunction is still controversial.
- Treatment of psychological conditions: Medical treatment to manage stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression and other psychological conditions may be prescribed by the doctor.
- Attachment Theory: What It Is, Stages & the Different Attachment Styles
- Gentle Parenting: What It Is, Techniques & Discipline
- U.S. Nursing Homes Fail to Report Many Serious Falls, Bedsores: Study
- The Younger You Get Diabetes, the Higher Your Risk for Dementia Later
- FDA Grants Full Approval to Paxlovid to Treat COVID-19
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cardiovascular & Hematological Agents in Medicinal Chemistry
Top How Common Is Female Sexual Dysfunction Related Articles
4 Sex Topics You Should Discuss With Your PartnerOne-on-one contact, empathy, and emotional connections are all usually very important in establishing sexual intimacy. Four sex topics you should discuss with your partner include physical limitations, gender history, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and religious upbringing.
7 Most Erogenous Zones On a WomanEveryone has sensitive touchpoints or erogenous zones on their bodies. The seven most erogenous zones on a woman are the ears, fingertips and palms, nipples, inner thighs, clitoris, A-spot, and the bottom of the feet.
Can a Gynecologist See If You're a Virgin?A pelvic exam or a vaginal exam cannot reveal with absolute certainty that a woman is a virgin or has been sexually active. A gynecologist can't tell if you are a virgin by doing a physical exam because of the variation in different hymens and the absence of a hymen isn't an indicator of sexual activity.
Can Vaginismus Be Cured?Learn what medical treatments can help ease your vaginismus symptoms and speed up your recovery from vaginismus.
Do Men or Women Feel More Pleasure During Sex?Everyone feels pleasure differently during sex. Both men and women can feel great pleasure during sex.
Female Sexual Dysfunction: Treatment for Women’s Sexual DisordersFemale sexual dysfunction symptoms can limit a woman’s sex life. Female sexual dysfunction guidelines aim to identify and address any psychological and physical causes of the problem. Sometimes doctors prescribe drugs to treat female sexual dysfunction symptoms.
Gonorrhea In WomenGonorrhea is a bacterial infection transmitted during sexual contact. In women, symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge, burning or frequent urination, and redness, swelling, burning, and itching of the vaginal area. Gonorrhea can be treated with injectable (penicillin) or oral medications.
Is Masturbation Healthy?Masturbation is a healthy and natural part of one’s own sexuality. Check out the center below for more medical references on sexual health, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
Healthy Aging: Better Sex After 50`It's never too late to improve your sex life. Learn how older adults can overcome common health conditions affecting seniors over 50 such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis in order to have a healthy sex life.
Sexual AddictionThe term sex addiction describes the behavior of someone who has an unusually strong sex drive or sexual obsession. Sex and thoughts of sex dominate a sex addict's thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships. Sex addicts may engage in exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, compulsive masturbation, or cybersex. Treatment for sex addiction includes individual counseling, marital and/or family therapy, support groups, 12-step recovery programs, and in some cases, medications.
Benefits of SexHow would you like a stronger immune system or better sleep? Action between the sheets can help you get all of this and more. Read on to discover the surprising health benefits of sex.
Sexual Health: What Happens When You Stop Having Sex?Learn about what can happen to your physical and mental health when you stop having sex.
What Ages Are Women and Men at Their Sexual Peak?Sexual peak refers to a period of your life when you are most capable of having frequent sex that is high in quality. Research suggests that women reach their sexual peak in their 30s whereas men peak in their late teens.
What Are the 4 Genders?There are four different types of genders that apply to living and nonliving objects; however, many believe there are more genders beyond masculine gender, feminine gender, neuter gender, and common gender.