High Blood Pressure Harms Women's Sexual Function, Too
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
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.
The investigators identified 224 women who were in heterosexual
relationships who either had or did not have mild high blood pressure. The
women completed a self-administered questionnaire and participated in a
There were no differences between medicated and unmedicated women, or by the
type of medication used to treat their blood pressure. Current smokers were
more likely to report problems with orgasms than were nonsmokers.
"Patients should be aware of sexual difficulties and open to discussing
them with their doctors, especially if they have hypertension," Daniel C.
Fisher, MD, tells WebMD. He is a cardiologist at New York University Medical
Center in New York City.
"If your sex life is not what you want it to be, or even if you don't
know what it should be, talk to your physician. Several health problems can
affect your sexual function," Steven C. Kaplan, MD, tells WebMD. Kaplan is
a professor of urology at Columbia University and researcher in sexual function
at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. He was not involved in the study.