By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Sexual dysfunction refers to any difficulty a person or couple are experiencing with the various aspects of sexual activity such as attraction, arousal, pleasure and orgasm. Sexual dysfunction can cause extreme distress and severely impact a person’s quality of life.
The most common problem that affects males is erectile dysfunction, which usually has a physical cause. Psychological factors such as situational anxiety, however, can also affect male sexual function.
Some of the problems that causes sexual dysfunction in females include loss of interest in sex, difficulty reaching orgasm, negative thoughts during sex, and vaginal dryness and tightness causing pain during sex.
Approach to sexual dysfunction
The main initial approach to sexual dysfunction is a thorough physical and psychological evaluation of the couple, both individually and together. Physical problems such as erectile dysfunction can be treated using medication and psychotherapy may be used in cases where a psychological element is suspected.
Psychological elements that are taken into consideration include anxiety, guilt, intra-marital problems, abuse, stress, past history of sexual trauma, depression and panic disorders. Physical factors include alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, the use of stimulants such as cocaine and heroin and even a high caffeine intake.
The number of consultations sought for sexual dysfunction is very low as many people are reluctant to seek help. People therefore tend to use internet-based information about sexual dysfunction to “self-diagnosis” and manage the problem.
Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and alcohol consumption can help to resolve some cases of erectile dysfunction and examples of medications that may be used include Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Another form of therapy is intracavernous pharmacotherapy, which involves a vasodilator medication that is injected into the penis to induce an erection.
For women, the a vacuum device is available that increases the flow of blood to the genitalia and clitoris.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014