In part 1 of our 2 part article on sexual health in adults, which ran in our February issue, we took a look at sexual dysfunction in men. This month, we learn about sexual dysfunction in women and how it is more common than many think.
Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) is very common. So much so that have been more than 12,000 research papers published on the topic. Patients are often scared to approach their doctor with questions about intimacy and, as a result, their relationships and personal happiness suffers. Hopefully the following answers to many common questions I’ve heard patients ask will help start the conversation during your next visit with your healthcare provider.
Q: What is Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)?
Achieving a functional sex life for women often requires a balance of many parts of their health, including physical, mental and relationship. Patients with FSD may complain of problems with desire for activity, satisfaction with their sexual relationship, frequency and satisfaction with obtaining an orgasm, and pain prior to or after sexual activity. Your doctor may use a questionnaire such as the Female Sexual Function Index to help assess the problem. The important thing to remember is that if you don’t feel satisfied with your activity, then talking with your doctor may result in a solution to your problem.
Q: I’ve had Certain Problems Since Menopause, Is There Anything I Can Do?
Estrogen decreases as women age, leading to vaginal dryness and can cause discomfort with sexual activity. Some women chose to take hormone therapy to treat this; however there are risks that you need to discuss with your doctor. There are many vaginal moisturizing creams that can decrease pain when used in addition to adequate lubricants during sex.
Q: How Common is FSD? Am I Alone?
A recent study showed that 43% of women had complaints of poor sexual function. Most women complain that they lack desire to have sex and this increased with age. Interestingly, issues related to relationships had the largest effect on desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction.
Q: Can FSD Be Caused by Medical Problems?
Pain during sexual activity and difficulty maintaining adequate lubrication has been related to both increased age and urinary incontinence. While we can’t do anything about aging, there are many options for incontinence and talking with your PCP may lead you to the right specialist for your needs. Depression, and the medications to treat it, often causes both men and women to lack interest in sex. If you noticed a lack in sexual desire, increased fatigue and weight gain, have your doctor check to make sure your thyroid is functioning properly.
Q: As a Lesbian, Do I Need to Have the Same Screening Tests?
Regardless of how you identify yourself, all women benefit from routine screening exams for breast and cervical cancers. Cervical cancer often has no symptoms until it is well advanced, but a routine Pap smear can detect it while it can be easily treated. By developing a relationship with a PCP, you can empower yourself to make the best decisions for your health going forward!