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Sexual Dysfunction: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Side Effects and Cure

Last Updated: Mar 15, 2022

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What is sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction is/are the problem/s that a person may experience during any phase of the sexual response cycle. This prevents the person or the couple from experiencing any satisfaction from sexual activities. The different facets of the sexual response cycle include excitement, orgasm, plateau and resolution.

Research has shown that about 43 % of women and 31 % of men suffer from some sort of sexual dysfunction. This issue can occur anytime and both men & women can experience sexual dysfunction and chances increase as you age.

Who is affected by sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction is highly preventable. It majorly affects 43% of women and 31% of men. Sexual disorders, including erectile dysfunction in men and females, are found in 10% to 20% of men and women and strongly age-related in men. Orgasmic disorder is relatively common in women.

Premature ejaculation is the most common sexual complaint of men. Sexual pain disorders have been reported in 10% to 15% of women and less than 5% of men. Sexual dysfunction impacts directly on interpersonal functioning and overall quality of life in both men and women.

What are the types of sexual dysfunction?

  • Desires Disorder:

    Desires disorder implies that a person has little or no interest in any kind of sexual activities. These are the problems which lack or absence of sexual drive, also known as libido disorder or low libido.

    Low level of female hormone-estrogen and male hormone - testosterone, lowers the sexual desires in both. It can be due to medical conditions like blood sugar, heart disease, due to relationship conflicts, fatigue, fear, depression, and anxiety.

  • Arousal Disorder:

    Arousal disorder implies when a person is emotionally ready for sex but the body refuses to cooperate. This disorder can occur in both men and women where individuals or both couples may experience no pleasure and excitement from sexual activity.

    In the case of women, it may be frigidity and in the case of men, it may be erectile dysfunction. Some males find that they can only maintain the partial erection or may be unable to obtain at all. Affected people may also find they gain no pleasure from sexual activity.

  • Orgasm Disorder:

    Orgasm disorder implies when a person is emotionally ready for sex but is not being able to reach climax. Delay or absence of orgasm (climax), is a common issue with females, but they can also be faced by the male.

    It can be caused by physical factors or due to pain during sexual activity and maybe some hormonal changes. In males, mostly the orgasm disorders are related to ejaculation disorder.

  • Pain Disorder:

    Pain disorder means a person is experiencing pain during the act. Pain disorder during sexual activity can affect both men and women, mainly confined to women due to vaginal dryness or inadequate lubrication.

    It may be caused by lack of stimulation or lack of excitement or maybe due to hormonal changes during menopause, pregnancy or breastfeeding. In the case of a male, priapism means painful erection. It can happen due to infection like prostatitis, UTIs and genital herpes. This pain may continue for a few hours.

Who is affected by sexual dysfunction?

Both male and females can face sexual dysfunction disorder. This issue is common in age over 40 as it is related to age factor.

Sexual dysfunction in women:

Research has shown that about 43 % of women suffer from some sort of sexual dysfunction. This issue can occur anytime and can experience sexual dysfunction and chances increase as you age.

The most common problems of sexual dysfunction in women include:

  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Lack of signs of female arousal
  • Lack of orgasm
  • Painful intercourse

Sexual dysfunction in men:


Research has shown that about 31 % of men suffer from some sort of sexual dysfunction. This issue can occur anytime and can experience sexual dysfunction and chances increase as you age.

The most common problems of sexual dysfunction in men include:

  • Ejaculation Disorders
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Inhibited Sexual Desire
  • Lack of signs of male arousal
  • Painful intercourse

Sexual dysfunction symptoms:

Both male and females can face sexual dysfunction disorder. The major symptoms include:

Common symptoms for men and women:

  • Absence of sexual desires
  • Trouble in getting aroused
  • Painful intercourse

Sexual dysfunction symptoms in women:

Common sexual dysfunction symptoms for women are:

  • Lack of orgasm or difficulty in reaching orgasm
  • Discomfort during intercourse
  • Spasm of the vaginal muscle or inflammation of the vulva (vulvodynia)

Sexual dysfunction symptoms in men:

Common sexual dysfunction symptoms for men are:

  • Inability to maintain an erection
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Inability to control the ejaculation timing

What causes sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can be a result of either physical or psychological issues:

  • Physical Causes: physical or medical conditions can cause issues with sexual activity. The following diseases and conditions can lead to sexual dysfunction:
    • Bladder infection
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Alcohol and drug addiction
    • Blood
    • Hypertension
    • High cholesterol
    • Chronic Disease
    • Neurological Disorder

    In addition, the side effect of some antidepressant drugs can also affect sexual functioning.

  • Psychological Causes: Majorly people face the psychological causes for sexual dysfunction, like concern about sexual performance, any guilt feeling about sexual activity, any relationship conflict between partners, stress, anxiety, depression or body image issues and effects of past sexual trauma.

Why do antidepressants cause sexual dysfunction?

Most antidepressants are from a drug family called SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). If the Serotonin level rises in the body, the person who is taking the drug may experience a feeling of calm and less anxiety. However, that sense of calmness lowers the level of libido. So, it prevents the hormones from responding to any sexual activity.

How is sexual dysfunction diagnosed?

Diagnosis can usually occur without any testing other than just a physical examination. The doctor will start with a complete past history of symptoms and a physical condition. If needed, doctors may suggest diagnostic tests to check out any medical issues which may cause sexual dysfunction.

Doctors may also ask questions to evaluate things ie. your thoughts and attitudes towards sexual activity and may ask you for any fear, anxiety or any past trauma which could lead you to sexual dysfunction.

How Is sexual dysfunction treated?

Yes, treatment is there for sexual dysfunction. Below are the ways of treating the disorder:

  • Medication:

    If any medication is the main cause of sexual dysfunction, then a change in the medication may help and if men and women have hormonal deficiencies then the hormone shots, pills or cream may benefit.

    Penile implants are one of the oldest methods of treating erectile dysfunction in men. Some doctors may even go for vascular surgery to repair the blood vessels and increase the blood flow to the penis.

    In women, sexual dysfunction treatment often involves the addressing of some medical condition or hormonal change. For females, another method of treatment is androgen therapy which involves the use of testosterone.

  • Mechanical aids:

    Mechanical methods like the use of vacuum pumps help to treat sexual dysfunction in 50-75 % of the cases. The device is to be used by a man on his penis to expand it temporarily. This device is particularly useful for people with diabetes.

    Constriction rings are used to treat sexual disorder in those men who get an erection but fail to sustain it throughout the intercourse. This condition is called early detumescence and can be cured by placing a rubber ring at the base of the penis after erection.

    Penile Implants and Vacuum devices may help men to deal with erectile dysfunction in men. In the case of women, treatment of sexual dysfunction due to hormonal changes can be done with estrogen therapy which involves use of vaginal ring, tablet or cream.

    Vagina narrowing may be experienced by the use of dilators. Physical use of vaginal lubricants and use of devices that stimulate the clitoris are some of the options.

  • Sex therapy:

    Sex therapy helps couples, positively, who actually face the sexual issue and is not diagnosed by their primary care physician. A sex therapist could be helpful as a counsellor as well.

  • Behavioural treatments:

    It involves different techniques which include an understanding of harmful behaviour in the relationship or techniques like self- stimulation for the treatment of problems for no pleasure or excitement for sexual activity.

  • Psychotherapy:

    Individuals, if undergoing therapy with a good counsellor, can freely discuss sexual trauma of their past, or feeling of anxiety, or any guilt he/she has for sexual activity without any restraint.

  • Education and communication:

    Sex education may help couples to overcome anxiety about sexual function.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

Any person can suffer from sexual dysfunction but it generally tends to occur in aging people. A person can undergo treatment for sexual dysfunction if he/she suffers from the symptoms associated with the condition.

The symptoms that a man can experience are inability to maintain or achieve an erection, delayed or no ejaculation even with adequate sexual stimulation and inability to control the timing of ejaculation.

The symptoms in women are the inability to achieve orgasm, inability to relax the vaginal muscles to allow intercourse and inadequate vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse. Moreover, men and women both lose interest in sex, experience pain during intercourse and have problems getting aroused.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Sexual dysfunction occurs when a person is unable to achieve satisfaction while indulging in sexual activities. The doctor will look at the entire medical history of a patient and even perform a physical test to find out if a person is actually suffering from this condition.

A doctor will generally find out about the person’s attitude towards sex as well as other contributing factors like fear, anxiety, past sexual trauma, medications, personal issues and if the person was addicted to any drug or alcohol. After thorough evaluation of these factors, the doctor will understand whether a person is eligible for treatment or not.

How can I permanently cure sexual dysfunction?

ED is commonly known as impotence. The standard treatment includes medication, vacuum pumps, implants, and surgery but there are many natural options available. Check below the natural way to cure it:

  • DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone is a natural hormone-produced adrenal gland. It can be converted to testosterone and estrogen in the body. The male with ED is more likely to have a low level of DHEA.

    It has been identified as an option to treat ED in men with concurrent diabetes. It affects males because of hormonal issues as well as diabetes complications that interfere with blood flow to organs.

  • Rhodiola Rosea: The herb helps to improve energy and reduces fatigue. It also improves sexual function.
  • L-arginine: It is an amino acid that is naturally present in our bodies. It helps to make nitric oxide. It helps in relaxing blood vessels to facilitate a successful erection and is essential for healthy sexual functioning.

    L-arginine improves sexual function and it is well tolerated with other medications, safe, and effective for mild-to-moderate ED.

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture shows positive results for treating ED. Acupuncture improves the quality of an erection and restores sexual activity.
  • Yohimbe: It is a supplement that is extracted from the bark of the African Yohimbe tree. It shows the positive effects on sexual performance.

    But at the same time, it has some side effects also like increased blood pressure and heart rate, irritability, and tremor.

  • Panax ginseng: It is called herbal viagra, Panax ginseng, or red ginseng. The Ginsenosides are elements present in Panax ginseng extract that have action at the cellular level to improve erection. The action of Panax ginseng appears to be most effective for those with high lipids in blood and metabolic syndrome.

    This herb is known to have anti-inflammatory action, also improves lung function, and improves blood flow in other diseases- all characteristics that may reduce ED.

Can sexual dysfunction go away on its own?

The specific cause of erectile dysfunction is not always simple. There are a number of medical conditions which can trigger sexual dysfunction. But it is important to get it evaluated. It could be an early warning sign of other potential health problems.

The sexual dysfunction is unlikely to resolve without some treatment or lifestyle changes. If it's an ongoing issue, it can cause stress, affect self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems.

Are there any side effects of sexual dysfunction treatment?

Constriction rings are usually safe but may cause pain, numbness and cold sensation in the area for some people. A person should consult a doctor if he has sickle-cell disease, heart disease or if he is on blood thinning medication. A penile vacuum pump may cause small red dots to appear on the skin, can cause pain or bruising, and even give a feeling of numbness or coldness.

Prostaglandin E1is injected into the shaft of the penis in injection therapy. The side-effects may include persistent erection and scarring of the male sex organ. Use of the same drug in the form of pellets may cause aching or burning in the penis and minor bleeding.

The side-effects of estrogen therapy include bloating, bleeding from the vagina, nausea, headache, indigestion and others. Some of the side effects of androgen therapy may be weight gain, acne, frequent mood changes, breast development and problems with urine flow.

What health problems are associated with sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction describes a number of conditions that harm a person's ability to have an enjoyable sex life. It is can reduce your desire for sex, or your ability to become sexually aroused.

There are certain medical issues or conditions which are associated with an increased risk of sexual dysfunction. The most common issues are:

  • Menopause
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Prostate cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Peripheral vascular disease

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

After undergoing penile implant surgery, a person will experience mild pain for several weeks. A person will need to take antibiotics for about a week after the surgery to avoid infection. Strenuous physical and sexual activities should also be avoided for a few weeks.

The doctor might also ask the patient to inflate and deflate the inflatable penile implants twice a day so that he gets used to using them. There are, however, no such post-treatment guidelines for treatment via mechanical methods. One may experience pain after the use of constriction rings. He should immediately go and see a doctor.

How long does it take to recover?

The penile implantation procedure may cause bruises on the organ and can also make the scrotum to swell. However, the swelling and pain disappears after about 14 days with the help of several warm baths per day.

Hormone therapy in women is generally done over a few months time and may even take years. Hormones should be used for treatment for the shortest period of time but a woman needs to check every 3-6 months whether she needs to continue with the therapy or not.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Medications for hormone therapy are available for as low as Rs 100 for a week. However, the entire procedure starting from the diagnosis to the therapy may cost between Rs 1, 00,000 – Rs 2, 50,000. Constriction rings are available within the price range of Rs 300 – Rs 900. Vacuum pumps to treat erectile dysfunction cost something around Rs 19,500 and Rs 32,500.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Use of constriction rings and vacuum pumps are temporary measures that help to spruce up your conjugal life temporarily. They do not provide a permanent solution. Surgical methods like penis implants may provide a longer-lasting effect but there are chances of some side-effects too.

Hormonal therapy in women may help to deal with sexual dysfunction on a long-term basis. However, the therapy should have to be continued if the situation demands.

Can sexual dysfunction be cured?

Yes, sexual dysfunction is curable. The treatment success depends upon the causes of sexual dysfunction. Communication is the best key helpful to sort things between the couples or partners. Thus, proper counselling can help in treating mild issues associated with stress, anxiety or fear.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Women respond well to counseling sessions. Instead of going for hormone therapy or taking medications, a woman can talk to a counselor about how to enhance intimacy with her partner, how to optimize the body’s sexual response and what exercises to do.

For men, Panax ginseng and Rhodiola rosea works well to treat erectile dysfunction. DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone is a remedy for erectile dysfunction in men with concurrent diabetes. Acupuncture can also help to deal with sexual dysfunction.

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Written ByDr. Ajay Kumar Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery (BAMS)Sexology
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