Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

Adding Spice To Your Sex Life- Cinnamon and Testosterone

July 9, 2016

 

It is normal for a man’s sex drive or libido to decline as he ages. The reason? The male hormone, testosterone, which is responsible for the libido starts to decline about 2-3% a year after age 30. This article will discuss a non-medical solution, cinnamon, that may have an impact on a man’s sex drive or libido.

Animal studies have demonstrated that cinnamon can reduce high blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity and also the testosterone boosting and testicular health. Therefore, it’s very much possible that cinnamon can be used to increase testosterone levels in humans.

 Cinnamon is a spice that you may only associate with baking and desserts, but there are plenty of cinnamon benefits that make it a great spice to use everyday and as a dietary supplement.

When using cinnamon as a supplement be sure to use organic cinnamon and not the conventional variety you typically find in the spice aisle at the grocery store. Just like with vegetables, conventional spices can contain the same herbicides and pesticides when they are conventionally manufactured.

Benefits of cinnamon:

Improves Metabolism

Cinnamon often makes it onto the list of foods that you should be eating if you are trying to lose weight. Cinnamon has the ability to rev up the metabolism, which can help you lose weight more effectively.

By the way, daily exercise is also a natural way to get your metabolism going.

 
 

Reduces Cholesterol

Cinnamon has been shown to help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body, often referred to as the bad cholesterol. This makes it a fantastic all-natural remedy for high cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol over long periods of time can lead to more serious heart problems such as stroke and heart attack.

Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

Cinnamon has been shown to help keep blood sugar levels where they should be, and is often recommended to diabetics to help naturally regulate blood glucose levels. You can use cinnamon even if you are not diabetic as a way to keep your blood sugar within healthy guidelines.

Antibacterial Properties

Cinnamon acts as an antibacterial agent in the body, and with that because of that it is very helpful in treating a myriad of problems. This is why it is often recommended for an upset stomach, because it can help clear harmful bacteria from the digestive system.

Cancer Fighter

Cinnamon has been shown to be effective cancer fighting foods, and there are many reasons for this, but the chief among them is cinnamon’s antibacterial property.

More studies are needed before cinnamon can fully be given the green light and regarded as a cancer-fighting agent.

Heart Disease Prevention

Because of cinnamon’s ability to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood circulation throughout the body, it can be used to help prevent heart disease.

Anti-Inflammatory

The anti-inflammatory nature of cinnamon means that you can use it to help with a number of conditions caused by inflammation.

Helps Balance Hormones

Cinnamon can help balance hormones in women, making it a great all-natural remedy to try before turning to medication like estrogen replacement therapy. Cinnamon acts to lower the amount of testosterone produced by women, while increasing the amount of progesterone.

Helps Brain Function

The aroma of cinnamon has long been thought of as being a brain booster, and modern science is backing that up. Reason enough to start opt for cinnamon scented candles, or cinnamon essential oils for aromatherapy.  Cinnamon can help your brain work better and keep you more alert, just by smelling it.  Rather than use energy drinks or other artificial ways to make yourself zeroed in, you can use the scent of cinnamon to give you that extra mental edge needed during a typical workday.

Clears the Digestive Tract

Cinnamon can help clear out your digestive tract, which will help your body absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat more easily. This also means you’ll have fewer stomach problems including indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation.

Increases Circulation

Cinnamon has a warming effect on the body, and can help improve blood flow throughout. There are plenty of diseases and conditions, like sexual functioning, that are caused by poor circulation, so taking steps to improve that circulation can be very beneficial indeed. Improved blood flow in the body can help improve the sex drives of both men and women, as it helps blood flow to the reproductive organs. For men this means stronger erections and for women it means increased sensitivity of the clitoris and labia.

Improves Your Mood

You can use cinnamon as a sort of aromatherapy to help improve your mood. That’s because for this benefit of cinnamon you simply need to smell it. The aroma of cinnamon acts to shift you to a better mood.

Many things can occur throughout the day to put us in an off mood, so it’s important to have a collection of steps you can take to try and shake you out of a funk and get you back to feeling good.

Alzheimer’s Prevention

One of the more surprising cinnamon benefits is its ability to help prevent Alzheimer’s. Research is promising in regards to cinnamon’s effect on the brain, enough so that it would be smart to start taking it as a supplement if you feel you are at risk for Alzheimer’s.

Bottom Line: Most men and women today want to maintain and restore their ability to be sexually intimate with their partner. Yes, there are pills and medications that can be effective. However, there are natural options, like cinnamon, that are available to nearly everyone and at low or minimal cost that may improve their ability to be sexually active. Also there are numerous other benefits of cinnamon that make it a worthwhile option. It’s hard to think of a spice like cinnamon as being anything more than a flavoring agent, but which is currently being studied for its beneficial effects including sexual intimacy and performance.

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Testosterone, Depression, and SSRI’s or Anti-Depressants-What’s the Connection?

December 21, 2015

Many people that take antidepressants, specifically SSRI’s (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors), find out that they have abnormally low testosterone. So what does this all mean? Did the initial low testosterone lead the individual to become depressed and go on an antidepressant? Or did the treatment with an antidepressant actually slowly reduce the individual’s natural ability to produce testosterone?

It really is a “chicken vs. egg” type argument in regards to whether low T caused depression or an antidepressant caused low T. Unfortunately there is no clear-cut scientific answer as to whether the antidepressant you took caused your testosterone to be lowered.

With that said, new research comes out all the time finding new things about antidepressants (SSRI’s) – they really aren’t well understood. Many antidepressants medications are now linked to development of diabetes, birth defects, etc. Although there are no formal studies to link antidepressants with low testosterone, many people taking these drugs are convinced that they are the root cause.

It could have been that the lower testosterone was what caused the person to feel depressed in the first place. The low T could have also merely been a coincidence among those who are depressed – after all, having low T is a pretty common issue.

Antidepressants and Testosterone: Many people taking antidepressants experience low testosterone. Similarly, many people with low testosterone are taking antidepressants. These two factors could also occur independently. In other words a person may develop low testosterone while on an antidepressant without the antidepressant being the cause. 



Depression and Testosterone: Many people may be experiencing depression as a result of low testosterone. Similarly many people may be experiencing low testosterone as a result of depression. Additionally, these two factors could be totally unrelated and independent of each other. In other words the depression could have nothing to do with low T and vice versa.
Depression and sex drive – Many people with depression tend to have lower than average sex drives. It is the depression that is thought to lead to disinterest in pleasurable activities like sex. People may be in such a depressed, low level of arousal, that they don’t feel like having sex. Therefore in this case, it could be that the depression and not testosterone is causing reduced sexual interest.
Testosterone and sex drive – It is well known that healthy testosterone levels are linked with a healthy sex drive. Men that have low T tend to have less fuel for sex, erectile dysfunction, and other performance issues. If your testosterone level were to be lowered, the natural result would be a reduced sex drive. This reduced sex drive could be linked to depression – therefore testosterone could play a role.
Low testosterone causing depression? – Individuals with lower than average levels of testosterone could be experiencing depressive symptoms as a result of their low T. Studies have found that among men with abnormally low levels of T, testosterone therapy helped reduce symptoms of depression. For this reason it is important to rule out all causes of depression (including low T) before you get on an antidepressant.
Antidepressants and low testosterone – It is well documented that antidepressants can affect hormones. Therefore some hypothesize that hormonal changes can influence our sex drive. It is not known whether antidepressants are the culprit behind lowering levels of testosterone. Many people that have taken SSRI’s believe that the drugs they took lowered their testosterone.
Bottom Line: There is no question that there is a relationship between testosterone and depression. I cannot say for certain that low testosterone is a result of the use of SSRIs. However, if you are taking SSRIs and you are experience a low sex drive or libido, it is very easy to ask your doctor to obtain a blood testosterone test. If it is low, treatment is easily accomplished with either testosterone injections, topical gels or pellets.

Testosterone Deficiency: Male Menopause Which Is HARDly The Pause That Refreshes!

November 21, 2015

Everyone has heard about menopause for women.  This is due to a decrease in estrogen production from the ovaries.  Men also have a fall in their testosterone, the male hormone produced in the testicles, also decreases a small amount after age 30 but becomes symptomatic around age 50.  The problem affects millions of American men who have decreased sex drive, lethargy, loss of muscle mass, decrease in bone density, and even irritability\depression.  This blog will discuss the problem of male menopause or andropause.

Men losing testosterone is a steady decline, like a leak in a swimming pool you never refill. Over time, you empty out all your stores, creating a constellation of problems.

The constellation of problems compound each other, too. The apathy comes in part from the decline in hormones, which results in loss of lean muscle mass, depression, and forgetfulness. But it becomes a downward cycle, as the less lean muscle mass a person has, the faster he or she gains weight, which leads to more depression.

The seriousness of the problem of male depression tied to aging cannot be denied, as middle-aged and older men account for more than 20 percent of suicides, as compared to about 5 percent for women. Older white males represent 70 percent of suicides.  Before starting anti-depressants, doctors caring for older men with symptoms of depression should get a serum testosterone level and replace the hormone with testosterone replacement therapy before initiating anti-depressants.

Most of my physician referrals come from psychiatrists and neurologists, as men are seeing them because of depression and memory issues. Psychiatrists and neurologists know what a reduction in testosterone does to emotional well-being and brain function. These specialists want their patients to be tested for low testosterone before trying anti-depressants or other prescription therapies.

The reason more general physicians don’t think of, or want, to go the hormone testing route? Testosterone therapy got a bad rap a few years ago when there was a lot of misinformation with regard to testosterone being dangerous and possibly being linked to an increase in prostate cancer and heart disease.

There have been poorly designed studies, just as there were poorly designed studies with women’s hormone studies, such as the Women’s Health Initiative, indicating that it might be dangerous for women to take hormone replacement therapy. The result is that these defective studies resulted in a lot of men are not doing testosterone optimization correctly. There is a big difference between what is considered a normal level of hormones, which in America, is often abused to build super-normal muscle mass, and those levels at which men literally come back to life again.

Ideally men need to have their testosterone levels drawn in the morning when the testosterone levels are the highest. If the man has the symptoms described above and has a low testosterone level, they are candidates for hormone replacement therapy using injections of testosterone, topical gels containing testosterone, or testosterone pellets that are inserted under the skin every 4-6 months.

Many of these men come in saying they feel like half a man; well they are, because they are trying to live on half the amount of testosterone they had when they were younger. When they feel better, they make changes such as losing weight, or changing careers, because with the low level of testosterone, they didn’t care enough to do it before.

Bottom Line: If you don’t feel the same way about yourself or your partner, and you are in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it may well be that one or both of you have hormonal issues. It makes sense to try and fix that with a brief history, physical exam and a testosterone blood test.

Low Testosterone And Depression: there is a relationship

September 27, 2015

Testosterone is more important that sex drive\libido, erections, and energy levels. A new study has documented low testosterone and testosterone that is the lower limits of normal may be associated with depression.

The study from the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. included 200 adult men, who were referred for borderline total testosterone levels between 200 and 350 ng/dL. Doctors typically treat men for hypogonadism or low T if they have symptoms of low testosterone and their testosterone levels are below 300 ng/dL.

The results show that more than half (56%) of the men had depression or depressive symptoms, which is significantly higher than rates seen in general populations. A recent survey of US adults found that 6% of those who are overweight or obese were depressed. One-quarter of the men used antidepressants.

Also worth noting, the men had high rates of overweight or obesity and physical inactivity. Common symptoms were erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, fewer morning erections, low energy, and sleep disturbances.

The study authors concluded that clinicians should consider screening for depression/depressive symptoms and overweight and unhealthy lifestyle risk factors in men referred potential hypogonadism.”

Testosterone replacement therapy can improve the signs and symptoms of low testosterone in these men who have documented low testosterone levels.

The researchers published their results online on July 1, 2015 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The Link Between Low T (Testosterone) and Depression

August 17, 2015

Most men think of testosterone as the sex hormone responsible for libido or sex drive. Yes, that is true but there is a also link between low testosterone levels and depression.

A study released at this year’s meeting of the Endocrine Society bring important news that men should know: Depression can go along with borderline or low testosterone levels.

A solid 56 percent of testosterone-deficient participants in the study, from the division of endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had significant symptoms or a diagnosis of depression and/or were taking an antidepressant.

The study involved men with testosterone levels of between 200 and 350 nanograms per deciliter. (A level below 300 ng/dL is considered low.)

Although I don’t recommend screening for low testosterone levels, I do suggest that men who are feeling depressed or not as happy as they would like to feel, consider getting their T levels checked.  It’s something your doctor could have missed that is very important to be addressed.

 Discussions about sex and erections

In general, doctors say men don’t like to discuss symptoms of low testosterone – such as erectile dysfunction and reduced sex drive – and that can make getting to the root cause of the condition and treating it harder.

There are symptoms of low testosterone that are specific to low testosterone – like a blood level less than 300 ng/dL, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, large breasts and osteoporosis – and symptoms that are not, such as weight gain, decreased muscle strength and mood changes. Depression falls into the non-specific category.

If a person is treated for low testosterone and their mood improves, it could be said in hindsight that low testosterone probably caused their depression, but it’s hard to make a definite correlation at the onset.

Testosterone naturally starts to drop after age 30 at a rate of about 1%\year.

Testosterone replacement therapy, which can be given in the form an injection, a patch, a topical gel or a pellet inserted beneath the skin which lasts for 4-6 months.

Low T and Other Medical Problems

There is a correlation between low testosterone and a variety of indicators of poor health – obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, a lack of exercise as well as depression.

There is a well known connection between low T and obesity.  Obesity is the No. 1 cause of low testosterone levels and if you lose 10 to 15 percent of your total weight, your testosterone level will come up. In patients who have a testosterone level of less than 200 ng/dL and in younger patients who have a disease or a cancerous tumor that is causing low testosterone, medication is the obvious choice and usually yields improvement.

Paying attention to decreased testosterone is important because low testosterone raises a man’s risk of death and its decline is markedly accelerated by each co-morbidity.

Male Health Month

May 21, 2015

June is Male health. Here are 10 health concerns for men:

1. Prostate cancer. Approximately 30,000 men die of prostate cancer each ear. All meds should undergo a baseline prostate specific antigen blood test at age 40. Men with a family history of prostate cancer, African American men, and veterans exposed to agent orange are at high risk. These men should consider getting screening each year beginning at age 40.

2. Benign enlargement of the prostate is also a concern for men after the age of 50. 50% of them between the ages of 50 and 60 will develop enlargement of the prostate which is a benign disease but affects a man’s quality of life.

3. Erectile dysfunction. Failure to achieve and maintain an erection can be caused by heart disease, diabetes, certain medications, lifestyle, or other problems. Effective drugs are available for treating this common condition that affects over 30 million American men.

4. Cardiovascular disease. Heart disease and stroke are often associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both can usually be controlled with diet and exercise, sometimes combined with medication.

5. Testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 20-35 and in most cases can be cured.

6. Diabetes. Men with diabetes or more likely to suffer from heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems and erectile dysfunction.

7. Skin cancer. Anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun is at risk for skin cancer.

8. Low testosterone. As men age, their testosterone decreases. This can called Andropause, a condition similar to menopause in women.

9. Colorectal cancer. Cancer of the colon and rectum can usually be treated if caught early.

10. Depression. Men are less likely than women to seek help for depression and are 4 times more likely to commit suicide. Help can take the form of medication, counseling, or a combination of both.

I know in New Orleans we have the attitude that “if ain’t broke don’t fix it”. That may apply to your car but not to your body. Take good care of yourself and see your doctor once a year for fine-tuning your health and wellness.

Depressed? Don’t Let Your Medication Steal Your Sex Life

December 19, 2014

Depression is a ubiquitous problem in the United States. Many of those who suffer from depression take anti-depressant medication and experience the side effect of sexual problems related to the medication to treat their depression. While sexual dysfunction is a frequent symptom of depression itself and successful treatment might eliminate it, antidepressants may exacerbate sexual dysfunction or even cause it in people whose sex life was previously fine. In fact, sexual dysfunction is a common side effect of all classes of antidepressants. This blog will discuss the relationship of sexual dysfunction in men and women who use anti-depressants and what are some of the solutions for those problems.

Fortunately, the news is not all bad. Experts have devised six main ways to address antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, and one or more of these approaches may work for you. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Viagra (sildenafil) improved symptoms in more than half of men with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.

The Effects of Antidepressants on Sexual Function
Antidepressants can affect almost all aspects of one’s sex life. First, it can diminish interest in and desire for sex. In men, it frequently causes erectile dysfunction (an inability to achieve or sustain an erection), and in women, it may cause vaginal dryness and decreased sensation in the genitals. Lastly, in both sexes, antidepressants can result in a difficulty or inability to achieve orgasm.
Sexual dysfunction caused by any factor, including antidepressants, can have effects that range far beyond the bedroom, including psychological distress and a decrease in self-esteem and overall quality of life. These effects cause many people to stop taking their antidepressants: Up to 90% of patients who experience antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction stop taking their antidepressants prematurely.
How do you know if your antidepressant is causing sexual problems? Experts say that the trouble is probably the result of the medication if a person who did not previously have sexual dysfunction experiences problems within two to three months of beginning antidepressant treatment.

Who Is at Risk and From Which Antidepressants?
While anyone taking an antidepressant may experience sexual dysfunction, certain people are more susceptible. These include people who are over age 50, married, or smokers; who don’t have a full-time job or college education; who take additional medications or a high dosage of antidepressants; who have another health condition that can cause sexual dysfunction (for example, diabetes or prostate disease); and who felt that sexual enjoyment was not important prior to taking antidepressant medication.
Reports show that anywhere from 30% to 70% of people who take antidepressants experience sexual dysfunction. Because these reports did not all measure sexual dysfunction in the same way, however, it has been difficult to compare rates from one report to another.

What To Do
You and your doctor can treat antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in six main ways. However, do not make any changes in your treatment regimen without first consulting your physician.

1 Choose an antidepressant medication with a low rate of sexual side effects. If you are sexually active and have numerous risk factors for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, your doctor may consider prescribing Wellbutrin, which has one of the lowest rates of sexual side effects. If you are already taking an antidepressant, switching to one with a low rate of sexual side effects may improve these symptoms. However, switching must be done carefully to minimize the risk of relapse or a withdrawal reaction from the first drug. Also, there is a chance that the new antidepressant will be less effective than the first or will cause other side effects. 

2 Wait to see if sexual side effects abate. One study found that antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction improved somewhat in about a fifth of patients within six months of beginning treatment. Antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction rarely disappears completely without treatment but may diminish to a point that is acceptable to the patient.
3 Change the time you take your antidepressant medication. If your symptoms involve a difficulty or inability to achieve orgasm, taking the medication after sexual activity may be helpful. For example, if you are most likely to engage in sexual activity in the evening, take the antidepressants just before falling asleep. Blood levels of the drug will be lowest the following night, and the extent of side effects also should be lowest at this time.
4 Reduce the dosage. A decrease in the dosage of medication may allow some people to regain satisfactory sexual function. However, lowering the amount of antidepressant taken each day may cause withdrawal reactions (particularly in people taking Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor XR, which are cleared from the body quickly) or an increase in depressive symptoms. People who use this approach need to develop a plan with their doctor and should be monitored closely.
5 Take drug holidays. A “drug holiday” involves taking a short break from your antidepressant. Some evidence shows that taking periodic two-day breaks from antidepressant treatment can lower the rate of sexual side effects during the drug holiday without increasing the risk of a relapse or recurrence of depressive symptoms. For example, in one study, taking medication Sunday through Thursday and skipping Friday and Saturday allowed participants to have improved sexual functioning 50% of the time on weekends with no overall worsening of mood. This approach worked with quick-clearing drugs (Zoloft and Paxil) but not with Prozac, which clears slowly from the body. Potential risks of drug holidays include relapse and withdrawal reactions. 

Add another medication. Various medications can be added to your antidepressant regimen to combat sexual dysfunction; the medication with the best evidence reported in the medical literature is Viagra.

Some reports suggest that the herbal extract Ginkgo biloba may be helpful, but do not take it without consulting your doctor. Ginkgo not only has known side effects, but it may also have unknown side effects, and the product may be contaminated or lack potency.

Bottom Line: Sexual problems are common with the use of anti-depressants. You don’t need to suffer in silence. If you are taking anti-depressants and experience sexual side effects, speak to your physician as help is available and modifications in your medications may just solve your problem and put you “back in the saddle” again!

What if I think my medicine is affecting my sex life?

October 22, 2014

In the previous blog I discussed the relationship between medications and sexual performance. This blog will make suggestions on how to approach your doctor and what are some of the options when drugs\medications impact your sexual performance.  If you are at all worried that your medicine may be affecting your ability to have sex, consult with your physician who prescribed the medication.

Do not stop taking your medicine without first talking to your doctor.

Do not be put off seeking help. Your quality of life is important, particularly if you are being treated for something like high blood pressure, which often has no symptoms and can require lifelong treatment.

Treatment of high blood pressure

  • Impotence seems to be less of a problem with ACE inhibitors such as enalapril.
  • Calcium channel blockers and alpha-blockers cause fewer sexual problems than diuretics (water tablets) or beta-blockers.
  • Loop diuretics such as furosemide have a lower risk of impotence than thiazide diuretics.

Treatment of depression

  • SSRIs cause the highest frequency of sexual dysfunction, followed by MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) and then tricyclic antidepressants.

Treatment of high cholesterol levels

  • Not all statins are associated with sexual problems. Even in those that are, the risk of developing such problems is very low.
  • Statins may be less likely to cause impotence than fibrates.

Bottom Line: Your doctor may switch you to another medicine in the same class, i.e., that acts in a similar way, in the hope that the new one will not cause the same side effects.

Alternatively, your doctor may try a different type (class) of medicine altogether, providing it is suitable for you to take.

Your doctor may also adjust the dosage and prescribe a lower dose which may have the desired effect on your blood pressure or your depression and not have the unwanted side effects of ED or lowering the testosterone level. The real bottom line is to speak to your physician to help with your medications and preserve your sexual performance.

Can’t Get It Up-It May Just Be In Your Head If the mind is crazy….the penis can be lazy!

August 28, 2013

When I went to medical school, the party line was that most men with impotence had a psychological cause of their inability to engage in sexual intimacy. Now, the situation is reversed and most men have ED or impotence as a result of physical causes, i.e., decrease in the blood supply to the penis, hormone deficiencies, or nerve problems. However, 10-20% are still due to emotional causes.

Emotional causes are often a secondary reaction to an underlying physical cause. In some cases, the psychological effects of ED may stem from childhood physical abuse or sexual trauma. However, the most common psychological causes of ED include:

Stress can be job-related, money-related, or the result of marital problems.

Once a man experiences ED, he may become overly worried that the problem will happen again. This can lead to “performance anxiety,” or a fear of sexual failure, and consistently lead to ED.

A man may feel guilty that he is not satisfying his partner.

A common cause of ED, depression affects a person physically and psychologically. Depression can cause ED even when a man is completely comfortable in sexual situations. Drugs used to treat depression may also cause ED.

Low self-esteem can be due to prior episodes of ED (thus a feeling of inadequacy) or can be the result of other issues unrelated to sexual performance.

Indifference to sexual intimacy may come as a result of age and a subsequent loss of interest in sex, be the result of medications or stemming from problems in a couple’s relationship.

Let the truth be told: all men at one time or another will experience ED. Only if the problem becomes persistent, i.e., occurs more than half the time — or becomes a source of distress for you or your partner should you be concerned and consider seeking medical advice and treatment. Most men with ED due to either psychological or physical causes can be helped and even cured. I suggest you have a discussion with a doctor if you are “striking out” more than half the time. I can’t promise you a home run every time, but I can tell you that you can be helped.

Female Sexual Dysfunction-Women, You Can Be Helped

January 20, 2013

It is of interest that women have just as many sexual problems as men. In the past 15 years, more attention has been given to male sexual problems, mostly erectile dysfunction, as medications have been available for treating this common condition. Now women with decreased desire, decreased lubrication, decrased aroiusal, and lack of orgasm can now be treated.

What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction in women can be a result of a physical and\or psychological problem.

Physical causes. Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases, hormonal imbalances, menopause plus such chronic diseases as kidney disease or liver failure, and alcoholism or drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.
Psychological causes. These include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, or the effects of a past sexual trauma.

The most common problems related to sexual dysfunction in women include:

Inhibited sexual desire. This involves a lack of sexual desire or interest in sex. Many factors can contribute to a lack of desire, including hormonal changes associated with menopause, medical conditions and treatments (for example, cancer and chemotherapy), depression, pregnancy, stress, and fatigue. Boredom with regular sexual routines also may contribute to a lack of enthusiasm for sex, as can lifestyle factors, such as careers and the care of children.
Inability to become aroused. For women, the inability to become physically aroused during sexual activity often involves insufficient vaginal lubrication. This inability also may be related to anxiety or inadequate stimulation.
Lack of orgasm. An absence of orgasm can be caused by a woman’s sexual inhibition, inexperience, lack of knowledge, and psychological factors such as guilt, anxiety, or a past sexual trauma or abuse. Other factors contributing to an absent orgasm include insufficient stimulation, certain medications, and chronic diseases.
Painful intercourse. Pain during intercourse can be caused by pelvic organ prolapse, endometriosis, a pelvic mass, ovarian cysts, vaginitis, poor lubrication, the presence of scar tissue from surgery, or a sexually transmitted disease. A condition called vaginismus is a painful, involuntary spasm of the muscles that surround the vaginal entrance. It may occur in women who fear that penetration will be painful and also may stem from a sexual phobia or from a previous traumatic or painful experience.

The diagnosis of female sexual dysfunction begins with a physical exam and a thorough evaluation of symptoms. The doctor performs a pelvic exam to evaluate the health of the reproductive organs and a Pap smear to detect changes in the cells of the cervix (to check for cancer or a pre-cancerous condition).

An evaluation of your attitudes regarding sex, as well as other possible contributing factors (such as fear, anxiety, past sexual trauma/abuse, relationship problems, or alcohol or drug abuse) will help the doctor understand the underlying cause of the problem and make appropriate treatment recommendations.

Treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Most types of sexual problems can be corrected by treating the underlying physical or psychological problems which include:

Providing education. Education about human anatomy, sexual function, and the normal changes associated with aging, as well as sexual behaviors and appropriate responses, may help a woman overcome her anxieties about sexual function and performance.
Enhancing stimulation. This may include the use of erotic materials (videos or books), masturbation, and changes in sexual routines.
Providing distraction techniques. Erotic or non-erotic fantasies; exercises with intercourse; music, videos, or television can be used to increase relaxation and eliminate anxiety.
Encouraging non-coital behaviors. Non-coital behaviors (physically stimulating activity that does not include intercourse), such as sensual massage, can be used to promote comfort and increase communication between partners.
Minimizing pain. Using sexual positions that allow the woman to control the depth of penetration may help relieve some pain. Vaginal lubricants can help reduce pain caused by friction, and a warm bath before intercourse can help increase relaxation.

The success of treatment for female sexual dysfunction depends on the underlying cause of the problem. The outlook is good for dysfunction that is related to a treatable or reversible physical condition. Mild dysfunction that is related to stress, fear, or anxiety often can be successfully treated with counseling, education, and improved communication between partners.

Hormones play an important role in regulating sexual function in women. With the decrease in the female hormone estrogen that is related to aging and menopause, many women experience some changes in sexual function as they age, including poor vaginal lubrication and decreased genital sensation. Low levels of the male hormone testosterone also contribute to a decline in sexual arousal, genital sensation, and orgasm. Women can use a topical gel containing testosterone or receive a small pellet of testosterone, the size of a grain of rice, placed under the skin which can result in enhancement of their libido and sex drive.

Many women experience changes in sexual function after a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). These changes may include a loss of desire, and decreased vaginal lubrication and genital sensation. These problems may be associated with the hormonal changes that occur with the loss of the uterus. Furthermore, nerves and blood vessels critical to sexual function can be damaged during the surgery.

The loss of estrogen following menopause can lead to changes in a woman’s sexual functioning. Emotional changes that often accompany menopause can add to a woman’s loss of interest in sex and/or ability to become aroused. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or vaginal lubricants may improve certain conditions, such as loss of vaginal lubrication and genital sensation, which can create problems with sexual function in women.

I think it is important to mention that some postmenopausal women report an increase in sexual satisfaction. This may be due to decreased anxiety over getting pregnant. In addition, postmenopausal woman often have fewer child-rearing responsibilities, allowing them to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners.

Bottom Line: Many women experience a problem with sexual function from time to time. However, when the problems are persistent, they can cause distress for the women and her partner, and can have a negative impact on their relationship. If you consistently experience these problems, see your doctor for evaluation and treatment.

For more information on women’s health, I suggest my new book, What’s Going On Down There-Everything You Need To KnowAbout Your Pelvic Health. the book is available from Amazon.com

New book on women's health

New book on women’s health