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Female Sexual Dysfunction – It’s more common than you think (low libido or arousal)

Guest medical write B, who has listed the discussion points about female sexual dysfunction or low libido. She does a great job outlining the reasons for female sexual dysfunction. The challenge is to supply solutions. In the next blog i have a checklist including blood tests and other troubleshooting ideas that you can bring to your doctor (or go through on your own) to figure out why you’ve lost your loving feeling.

I rushed in 7 minutes late, Bridgehead coffee in hand, inadvertently displaying to my tiny class of eight where my loyalties lie in the morning. Caffeinated and ready to go, I was expecting the typical Monday morning routine: hypothetical patient presents with a slew of symptoms. Discuss what you would ask in your history, which investigations you would order, and which imaging tests you would run. Diagnose and treat.
This morning’s case, however, was a little different than the typical chest pain or sore back. Patient: 30-something year-old female. Presenting complaint: low libido & loss of sexual interest. With more than one third of Canadian women experiencing low libido and sex drive, it is a real and pervasive issue that doctors must be trained to address. The reasons for which a woman might experience low sexual desire are complex and multi-faceted. To varying degrees, physical & psychological causes, as well as hormonal changes, and relationship problems can all contribute to a loss in a woman’s libido.

The female sexual response cycle is broken down into four phases: excitation, plateau, orgasm, and resolution, any of which can lead to low libido if disrupted. The excitation phase, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, occurs as a result of physical or mental erotic stimuli. Simply put, it’s in this stage where we start to get all hot ’n bothered. The plateau stage is basically a continuation of the same changes evident in the excitement stage. For those who don’t often achieve orgasm, this is the peak of sexual excitement. The orgasm phase is well, orgasmic. Knees weaken, heart rates shoots up, body spasms occur, and we get an overall euphoric sensation. This euphoria is caused by a rapid release of the feel-good hormones, oxytocin and endorphins. Finally, the resolution phase allows the muscles to relax, blood pressure to drop and the body to slow down from its excited state.
The are plenty of reasons why one or more of these stages could be disrupted; stress, fatigue, poor communication, and a lack of intimacy with your partner are among the top culprits. Surprisingly, while a glass of wine may relax you and make you feel more amorous, too much can actually spoil your sex drive. Also be aware of the effects of certain medications; anti-depressants, such as SSRIs, are notorious libido killers. There are also dozens of physical and hormonal causes that should be investigated as well. Women’s hormone levels fluctuate greatly throughout their cycle, affecting everything form their mood, to their appetite, to their sex drive. While less common in younger women, certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, coronary artery disease, anemia, and neurological diseases can also lessen a woman’s libido. As women enter menopause, their estrogen levels being to decline, resulting in decreased lubrication, and at times, decreased sex drive.

Female sexual dysfunction affects more than just a woman’s sex drive. It can have major implications on her relationship with her partner, as well as her overall wellbeing. While several drug companies have attempted to create the female equivalent of Viagra, the results have been underwhelming. Viagra acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the genitals, allowing men to sustain a longer erection. Drug companies have found that the male brain responds to medically induced physical sexual arousal with a corresponding increase in psychological sexual arousal, but the female brain does not. If a man is physically turned on, he will also become psychologically turned on. Women, however, seem to require more than just physical stimulation.

The question then remains – if there isn’t an easy fix like viagra, how do we address women’s sexual dysfunction problems? We must treat the cause. Women should work together with their their family physician or find a sex therapist to try and pinpoint potential causes. Since female sexual dysfunction is often complex and multifactorial, women need to be patient and understand that their problems won’t be solved overnight. Physicians may suggest an alteration of certain medications, a referral to a psychologist/sex therapist, or a detailed work-up for potential medical causes.

If you experience persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response, desire, orgasm or pain that distress you or strain your relationship with your partner, then do not hesitate to address this problem with your family doctor. This is a very common issue that affects more than 30 percent of women. Doctors are well-trained to deal with these issues and refer you to the appropriate services if needed.

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