A blanket term to describe several sexual disorders affecting women, including lack of desire, difficulty becoming sexually aroused, difficulty reaching orgasm, and painful intercourse. By some estimates, anywhere from 19% to 50% of women have some type of sexual dysfunction. Women’s sexual difficulties may have a variety of underlying causes, both physical and emotional. Compared with men’s sexual dysfunction, very little is known about the causes of female sexual dysfunction or how to treat it, but this is now the focus of intense research and interest. Generally, female sexual disorders are defined as follows:
Dyspareunia refers to genital pain during intercourse. Vaginismus is a recurrent or persistent involuntary spasm of the muscles in the outer part of the vagina that interferes with penetration. Sexual pain disorders may have physical or emotional causes.
Often, several of these conditions can coexist and reinforce each other. For example, lack of arousal or pain during intercourse can create unsatisfying sexual experiences, which can lead to decreased desire and decreased arousal in subsequent experiences. Decreased desire results in inadequate lubrication and can continue to cause painful sex. Women who experience any of these conditions and find it distressing should discuss symptoms with their gynecologist or other health-care provider. A number of medical and non-medical treatments, including the following, can help alleviate symptoms of sexual dysfunction and enhance a woman’s sexual pleasure.
A study published in the April 2002 issue of the journal Diabetes Care found that 27% of women with Type 1 diabetes (compared to 15% of women without diabetes) had arousal problems or pain during intercourse. The study also found that all women who reported sexual dysfunction were more likely than other women to be experiencing symptoms of depression and suggested that the psychological toll of adjusting to diabetes may contribute to sexual dysfunction in women.
For women with diabetes, improved blood glucose control, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and appropriate counseling for depression or emotional issues may help improve sexual function.
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