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High Blood Pressure Harms Women's Sexual Function, Too

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June 28, 2000 -- Whether it's a matter of not being "in the mood" or having difficulties with vaginal dryness or orgasm, women's sexual difficulties can stem from a variety of causes. Now it appears that a culprit long associated with men's erectile problems, high blood pressure, also can diminish women's sexual pleasure.

Although it has long been known that men with high blood pressure are more likely to have difficulty with erections, little medical research has been done in women. This is because in men, the question is more simple and focused: Can the man get and sustain an erection, or can't he?

With women, there are more questions and fewer ways to evaluate them: the level of desire, ability to remain excited, degree of vaginal lubrication, and frequency of orgasms, as well as overall satisfaction with the relationship.

One trend in researching women's sexual problems is to determine which conditions known to cause erectile problems in men, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, also create problems for women. Apparently, high blood pressure does not discriminate when it comes to sexual dysfunction, according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

In this study of premenopausal women, those with high blood pressure were more likely to report a decrease in vaginal lubrication, less frequent orgasm, and more frequent pain with intercourse than were women with normal blood pressure, the authors write. But this doesn't mean that sexual difficulties are a tip-off to heart disease, co-author Carol Lewis, MSW, MPH, tells WebMD.

"So many medical conditions can affect sexual functioning, and sexual difficulties can also be unrelated to other aspects of a patient's health," she says. "However, patients need to report problems with sexual functioning, as they would any other aspect of their health."

Lewis and colleagues found a link connecting women's sexual problems to high blood pressure, whether or not the blood pressure was being treated, she tells WebMD. Therefore, women on blood pressure medication should report any changes "whether or not they think the change is drug-related," she says. Lewis is an epidemiologist and behavioral scientist at the Research Institute of Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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