There are many ways to treat sexual dysfunction, including counseling, treatment of other physical problems, mechanical devices, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements.
Here is a quick overview of some of these different options.
The cause of sexual dysfunction can be physical or psychological. Physical causes include several health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, injury, surgery, or hormonal imbalances. Side effects of medications used to treat these conditions or other conditions can also have negative sexual side effects. Psychological causes can include
anxiety, marital problems,
depression, and previous traumatic sexual experiences.
Whether it affects arousal, performance, or climax, sexual dysfunction is a real problem for the men and women who have it. Once the problem is identified, sexual dysfunction may resolve on its own, or it may respond to treatment or resolution of the underlying condition.
Sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) may be used to treat
erectile dysfunction (ED)
in men. However, those who take nitrate medication should be aware that taking both nitrates and these sexual enhancement drugs can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
Certain natural remedies may be helpful for sexual dysfunction. For example, the herb Korean red ginseng may be helpful for men who have ED, and the hormone DHEA may be helpful in improving sexual function in older women.
Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate these products, their purity and safety is often in question. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises that no complementary health therapies have proven to be safe and effective. In fact, safety is a serious concern with regard to dietary supplements promoted for ED or sexual enhancement. Make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.
In addition to medications and natural remedies, examples of other treatment options include:
- Couples therapy sessions to address emotional and relationship issues that may be causing sexual dysfunction
- Vacuum devices for men to increase blood flow to the genitals to help with arousal difficulties
- Hormone therapy to treat hormonal insufficiencies that are involved in some cases of sexual dysfunction
If you are having problems with sexual function, remember it is treatable. Make an appointment to talk with your doctor so you can find a safe treatment plan that works for you.
Erectile dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2014.
Erectile dysfunction—sexual enhancement. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/sex/erectiledysfunction.htm. Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2014.
Impotence. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2014.
Parmet S, Lynm C, et al. JAMA patient page. Male sexual dysfunction.
JAMA. 2004 Jun 23;291(24):3076.
Sexual dysfunction in women. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2014.
Sildenafil. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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