Female Sexual Dysfunction: Key Q&A

What you need to know about sexual dysfunction

What can cause psychologically-influenced sexual dysfunction?

Psychological reasons for sexual dysfunction may be expressed as anxieties or fears that cause a woman difficulty with one or more of the aspects of sexual intimacy. Some of the more common triggers include anxiety and stress from work or home life, worries about sexual performance, depression, past sexual trauma and an unresolved sexual orientation.

How can medical conditions cause psychological sexual dysfunction?

Psychological factors also have a tremendous impact on the sexual function of patients who have experienced gynecologic cancers. Fears of recurrence, an altered self-image and the after-effects of treatment can affect daily activities, careers and relationships.

Following a diagnosis of cancer or chronic disease, it is normal for a woman to experience anxieties regarding survival, family, finances, career and changes in body image and activity levels. All of these factors can lead to the strain a woman feels in expressing her sexuality and concerns about sexual desirability.

What hormonal changes can lead to pain during intercourse?

Painful intercourse is a common problem often resulting from hormonal changes related to pregnancy, menopause or female cancers. These hormonal changes can lead to vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy, in which the shape and flexibility of the vagina gradually decline.

What signs and symptoms may accompany sexual dysfunction?

Some of the symptoms most commonly associated with female sexual dysfunction are prevention of penetration due to poor relaxation of the vaginal muscles, a lack of lubrication in the vagina before and during intercourse, the inability to achieve orgasm, and/or pain on the vulva or in the vagina during penetration or contact.

Primary care physicians, obstetrician-gynecologists (ObGyns) and certain mental health professionals are often trained in the diagnosis and treatment of female sexual dysfunction An ObGyn is a physician who specializes in the female reproductive organs, pregnancy, labor and child birth.

Have any medical devices been approved by the FDA to treat female sexual dysfunction?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a medical device for the treatment of female sexual arousal disorder in 2000. It is a clitoral engorgement device, called Eros-CTD, used to stimulate the clitoris and increase blood flow to the area. It is the only FDA-approved device for female sexual dysfunction.

Reviewed by Steven A. King, M.D.

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