What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?

With up to half of all women having persistent problems in this area, sexual dysfunction is much more common than many people realize. Among the concerns are low or nonexistent libido, painful intercourse and difficulty reaching climax.

While sexual response is complicated, involving numerous physical and emotional factors, there are some medical issues that may be causing the issues. Serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease and chronic nerve conditions, can make sex uncomfortable, unsatisfying or even painful, as can scarring or infection in the genital area. Pregnancy, recent childbirth, breastfeeding and menopause can cause physical changes or hormonal imbalances that can cause symptoms, including vaginal dryness, that can make sex uncomfortable.

Emotional issues, from depression and anxiety to stress, low self-esteem and past sexual abuse, can also have a profound effect on a person’s sex drive. In addition, use of alcohol, tobacco and certain street drugs can be associated with sexual problems, as can some medications, including but not limited to antidepressants, high blood pressure medication and steroids.


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If you are experiencing pain or other unwanted symptoms during sex, or if you are concerned about possible sexually transmitted diseases, speak with your physician as soon as possible.

Treatments for sexual dysfunction include a range of therapies, as well as medications for libido and pain, and pelvic exercises that can heighten sexual pleasure.

On the emotional side, making time for your partner and communicating openly can improve satisfaction, as can therapy to deal with stress, anxiety and other barriers to sexual intimacy. For women experiencing vaginal dryness, vaginal lubricants can eliminate or significantly reduce pain during intercourse.