By Eileen West, MD, FACP, CCD
It’s estimated that about 41% of women experience sexual dysfunction, compared to 31% of men. So, then, why are there at least six brand name drugs to treat erectile dysfunction in men but only two that treat sexual hypoactive desire disorder (HSDD) in women – the most common sexual disorder in women?
The answer comes down to two main reasons: The investment and research into erectile dysfunction (something that only affects 19% of men) far outpaces research into women’s sexual dysfunction. Women’s sexual dysfunction is also much more complex to treat, thanks to a wide-range of causes and our changing biology as we age.
HSDD isn’t the only sexual dysfunction disorder women experience. Other sexual disorders include:
- Inability to become aroused
- Lack of orgasm
- Painful intercourse
Each of these disorders can be caused by many different conditions – from cancer to diabetes, to falling estrogen levels to sexually transmitted diseases and many, many others.
More awareness, understanding leads to more options
Fortunately, the approval of two new drugs in recent years – flibanserin (brand name Addyi) and bremelanotide (brand name Vyleesi) offer women more answers and hope. These medications, both which work very differently, are targeted for women with HSDD.
There is still much work to be done, but an increase in awareness, attention and investment among research and pharmaceutical companies is contributing to the development of new drugs for women with sexual dysfunction.
Another challenge is that women and providers need to overcome is that many provider-patient appointments feel rushed as is without getting into a topic that doesn’t seem all that important to a women’s health as sex – another common misinterpretation of women’s health.
Health benefits of sex
It’s easy to understand why talking about your sexual health to your provider can seem embarrassing. But it shouldn’t. Your sexual health is an important part of your overall health. In fact, sex has been found to have a positive effect on:
- Immune system
- Bladder control
- Blood pressure
- Heart health
Your healthcare provider should create an open, honest and comfortable space for you to bring any health concern you’re facing, whether it’s your physical, mental, emotional or sexual health. These topics require more than the average seven-minute appointment you get with a traditional primary care provider (and it’s why we do things a little differently at Eileen West, MD and Associates.)