Female Sexual Dysfunction: Key Q&A

What you need to know about sexual dysfunction

What is female sexual dysfunction?

Female sexual dysfunction is any problem that routinely interferes with a woman's ability to achieve sexual gratification. To be considered a dysfunction, the symptoms must be persistent, pervasive and cause the woman distress. This broad definition can include difficulties with desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution.

How common is sexual dysfunction?

According to the American Medical Association, approximately 43 percent of U.S. women have experienced some form of sexual dysfunction at some time. About 31 percent of men have experienced sexual dysfunction. This makes sexual dysfunction more common in women than in men. However, it's important to note that there is still a great deal of controversy regarding how many people suffer from sexual dysfunction.

What kind of sexual activity may be affected by sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can affect any sort of sexual activity, including fondling, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration and intercourse.

Is menopause linked to female sexual dysfunction?

Yes. Women entering midlife may experience sexual dysfunction caused by menopausal changes in the body. During this period, sexual response and a general interest in sex may diminish. Changes in vaginal tissue may include thinning, dryness, itchiness or burning, and in some cases, sex may become painful.

Can sexual dysfunction result from breast cancer?

Yes. As many as half of all breast cancer patients experience some form of long-term sexual difficulties, according to the National Cancer Institute. For many women, breasts are part of their female self-image. The loss of a breast in a mastectomy or changes in a breast’s size or shape after a lumpectomy can sometimes cause long-term psychological and sexual problems. Conversely, treatments for breast cancer can also cause sexual dysfunction.

What can cause a lack of orgasm in women?

Common reasons for women to fail to achieve orgasm include severe stress or anxiety, depression or various medical conditions (e.g., incontinence). Certain medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or antihypertensive drugs, can also cause a lack of orgasm.

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