Treating women's sexual dysfunctions

November 26, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
Women shouldn't be embarrassed about a problem in the bedroom. Learn about the symptoms and treatments for sexual dysfunction for women.

Did you know that on average, more women, than men, suffer from sexual dysfunction? It's a topic most don't often talk about, but we shouldn't be embarrassed. To discuss the symptoms and treatments for sexual dysfunction among women, Doctor Leah Millheiser, Instructor at Stanford Medical Center joined us today.

Female Sexual Health: Knowledge is Power!

Fact 1:
43% of women vs. 31% of men in this country experience sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction is defined as a sexual complaint that causes personal distress. It includes disorders of desire (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder), arousal (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder), orgasm (Female Orgasmic Disorder), and pain (Sexual Pain Disorders).

Fact 2:
Sexual function complaints can be a sign of serious underlying disease such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, etc. Patients must report any new symptoms to their personal physician.

Fact 3:
If your personal physician doesn't ask you about a sexual complaint, you should tell them anyway.

Top 4 reasons why doctors don't ask their female patients about sexual function:

  1. They never learned about female sexual dysfunction in medical school or residency.
  2. There are no treatments available.
  3. They may be uncomfortable with the topic.
  4. There may not be enough time during the office visit.

Top 3 reasons patients don't bring it up:

  • My doctor will be uncomfortable
  • There are no treatments available
  • My doctor may dismiss my concerns

Fact 4:
Prior to 1998, female sexual dysfunction was considered a psychological problem and was treated that way. It took the explosion of Viagra for men onto the market in '98 for researchers to acknowledge that there were physiological factors other than the mind that affected healthy female sexual function such as certain illnesses, commonly-used medications (such as antidepressants and medication for high blood pressure), as well as disorders affecting common bodily functions such as blood flow and nerve activity.

Fact 5:
While several medications exist on the market for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction including Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, there continue to be no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction. Medical treatments are being used to treat female sexual dysfunction, but on an off-label basis (not FDA-approved).

There are a few herbal therapies available over-the-counter proven to be very effective in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction (Zestra, ArginMax). Women who choose the herbal path should check whether or not the ingredients contain herbs that act like estrogen, as estrogen is not appropriate for every woman.

Fact 6:
Men and women really are from Mars and Venus: Men and women follow a completely different sexual response cycle. In fact, recent research findings show that women, unlike men, do not require an orgasm to be sexually satisfied. Also, men tend to fantasize and have more thoughts about sex compared to women. This does NOT mean that women are less sexual than men?.just different. The key to any healthy sexual relationship is communication. Too many women believe that Hollywood's portrayal of sexuality is reality!

Fact 7:
Just because a women is "sexually neutral" does not mean that she is abnormal. In today's busy world, women have more and more life stressors including: work, family, financial, childcare, and hormonal changes (menopause). Also, relationships change over time and an emphasis on physical intimacy may be substituted with emotional intimacy. This is normal. It's when a woman wants to find that inner sexual spark, but cannot, that sexual function may become problematic.

Fact 8:
Sexual lubricants oftentimes contain glycerin. Glycerin in lubricants may cause yeast infections in women. If you are prone to development of yeast infections, look for glycerin-free products. Avoid mineral oil or petroleum-based lubricants as they break down latex products and make women more prone to genital infection.

Fact 9:
Women are choosing to undergo surgical procedures to enhance their sex lives such as vaginal rejuvenation and G-spot enhancement which are being made popular on reality TV shows. Women should approach these procedures with caution as there is no research evidence that these procedures even work.

Leah Millheiser, M.D.
Instructor, WRHR Scholar
Phone: (650) 725-9447