A sexual problem, or sexual dysfunction, refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual activity. The sexual response cycle has four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Occasional problems with sexual function are common. If problems last more than a few months or cause distress for you or your partner, you should seek the advice of a urologist.

While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common (43% of women and 31% of men report some degree of difficulty), it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Fortunately, most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable, so it is important to share your concerns with your partner and doctor.

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Loss of Sexual Interest (Libido)

Your interest in sex, also called libido, can vary over the course of your life. Some women have low libidos during times of stress or illness. At times, your interest and desire for sex might not match that of your partner, which is normal in long-term relationships. Still, low libido should not be ignored. It can be a sign of a health problem, such as depression. Some medicines can affect sex drive. Your body’s hormone levels also shift after giving birth and during breast-feeding, which can lead to vaginal dryness and can affect your desire to have sex. Lower estrogen levels after menopause may lead to changes in your genital tissues and sexual responsiveness. The folds of skin that cover your genital area (labia) become thinner, exposing more of the clitoris. This increased exposure sometimes reduces the sensitivity of the clitoris.

Painful Intercourse

Pain during intercourse can be caused by a number of problems, including 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 that can inhibit sexual function.