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Understanding Sexual Dysfunction and 5 Treatment Options

Sexual dysfunction is prevalent in both men and women. It is important to understand its causes for the best course of treatment.

A young couple being intimate on the bed, staring at each other with loving gaze

Sexual dysfunction impacts both men and women. It was reported by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that 18 million men in the U.S. are affected by erectile dysfunction. Another survey from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study noted that 10% to 52% of men and 25% to 63% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction.

However, sexual dysfunction is not always discussed. This is due to social taboos, lack of communication between partners, or an understanding of what is happening to the body. Below, we are sharing more about this common condition and how to treat it.

What is Sexual Dysfunction?

A couple argues on the bed not facing each other because of sexual dysfunction issue
Both men and women deal with sexual dysfunction in different ways.

Sexual dysfunction is an issue that prevents a man or woman from experiencing satisfaction. It can happen during any phase of sex and may involve one or more of the following: 

  • Desire disorders: Also known as libido disorders or low libido, this is when a person does not have any interest in sex or desire for sex. Low estrogen and testosterone levels and an underlying condition such as heart disease or diabetes can also be the cause.
  • Arousal disorders: A person who does not get aroused or excited during sex. The most common type is erectile dysfunction, which affects 30 million men.
  • Orgasm disorders: A person is not able to or takes a long time to climax. This is very common in women but men also suffer from this.
  • Pain disorders: A person who experiences pain during sexual intercourse. 

Men with this condition commonly experience difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection and early or delayed ejaculation. Women who experience sexual dysfunction generally have a low sex drive. This makes it challenging to achieve an orgasm and relax the vaginal muscles. This leads to inadequate vaginal lubrication and painful sex.

If not treated, it can lead to anger, stress, depression, and even the loss of the relationship.

Who is Affected by Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Sexual dysfunction occurs at any age but is more prevalent after age 40. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), “the common causes for this condition are damp-heat, cold, blood deficiency, blood stasis, spleen-deficiency-induced phlegm and dampness, liver stagnation, kidney deficiency. All these are a result of our stressful working lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits,” explains Brandon Yew, a senior TCM physician at Real Health Medical Clinic in Singapore.

Jing (vital essence) represents the body’s capacity for creativity, growth, and reproduction and is particularly important for sexual health. It manifests as semen in men and menstrual blood in women. 

Health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders, hormonal disorders, kidney and liver failure, alcohol, and drug abuse can also cause sexual dysfunction. In men, it can be related to infections from a UTI, genital herpes, Peyronie’s disease (physical damage to the penis), or prostatitis. In women, it can be related to a UTI, vaginal dryness, or hormonal changes from menopause.

Work-related stress or marital problems, anxiety over sexual performance, depression, sexual trauma in the past, and body image concerns also play an important role in sexual dysfunction. 

Some medications such as over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants as well as antidepressants, hormone supplements, or blood pressure medications can also cause sexual dysfunction. Therefore, it is essential to check with your medical practitioner to understand the effects of these medications.

What are the Treatment Options for Sexual Dysfunction?

A smiling man picks up groceries with his wife in the supermarket to cook healthy meals
Lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet can naturally help you alleviate sexual dysfunction.

Consult with your doctor who will assess your history of symptoms and give you a physical exam. They may also run lab tests to rule out any underlying health problems, the side effects of medications, or an indication of past trauma. They will also be able to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case. Some of which might include:

1. Change your lifestyle 

Stress and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute to many ailments in our body, including sexual dysfunction. Physician Yew notes that adequate rest and sleep, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a clean lifestyle – without smoking and consuming excessive alcohol – can help you to improve your ability to relax and rest. Over time, this helps you to feel revived, rested, and have more energy for your partner.

2. Try herbal remedies 

Herbal remedies and natural supplements such as cordyceps can alleviate the symptoms of sexual dysfunction. Other formulations like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Shen Qi Wan, Cong Rong Bu Shen Wan, Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, Zuo Gui Wan, and You Gui Wan help treat reduced libido. However, physician Yew notes that there is no standard treatment for all patients in TCM. Treatment for each person is different and based on their specific body constitution.

‘All medicines have their toxicity,’ says a TCM saying. As such, all medicines should be consumed with caution and in moderation. It doesn’t matter how natural or mild they are. Never self-diagnose and self-medicate without proper consultation and guidance from a TCM professional,” he advises. As the saying goes, one man’s poison is another’s medicine.

3. Use lubricants 

Lubricants such as gels or creams and hormone therapy can help women who suffer from vaginal dryness or experience pain during sex such as after pregnancy or during menopause.

4. Take medications 

Your doctor may prescribe hormone shots, pills, or creams. This can help treat sexual dysfunction caused by hormonal deficiencies, particularly in post-menopausal women. Other courses of treatment include estrogen therapy, androgen therapy, or special dilators to relax the vaginal muscles.

For men, drugs may treat erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis. In some cases, penile implants or a penis pump might be part of your recovery.

Warning: Medicines can have serious side effects. Only use them under the guidance of a doctor.

5. Go to therapy

Psychotherapy and sex therapy can help reduce anxieties about sex and to better understand its causes. Counselors can guide the dialogue with you and your partner. This can help you discuss fears, past trauma, body image issues, stress, anxiety, and other issues that can impact a healthy sexual relationship. On the other hand, a sex therapist is focused specifically on human sexuality who can offer help while addressing the full range of psychological, physiological, and cultural factors in your relationship.

Understanding different sexual dysfunctions can help you to better understand the course of treatment for your specific case. With the assistance of a professional, lifestyle changes, use of traditional herbal remedies, and medicine, you’ll be able to reconnect with your partner in no time.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Sexual Dysfunction. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]
  2. John Hopkins School of Public Health. 2020. 18 Million Men in the United States Affected by Erectile Dysfunction. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]
  3. Sexual Medicine. 2018. Physical Activity to Improve Erectile Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]
  4. Mayo Clinic. 2018. Female Sexual Dysfunction. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]
  5. Beaumont. 2021. Types of Sexual Dysfunction in Men and Women. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]
  6. Urology Care Foundation. 2021. What is Erectile Dysfunction?. [Accessed on December 17, 2021]

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