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Health & Sex

When Sex Is a Problem

Men have Viagra. But what about women with low libido?
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Underlying Problems

Women with sexual problems should also consider getting a comprehensive physical, to determine if poor health, urinary-tract problems, sexually transmitted diseases, or stress might be contributing to their difficulties.

If emotional problems are at the root of the sexual distress, counseling with a competent therapist might help.

Another Option

In June, another possible solution is due on the market: a genital suction device (called the EROS-CTD), recently approved by the FDA. It's used before intercourse to draw blood to the genitals and increase sensation.

In a test by the manufacturer, UroMetrics, 20 women used the device; sensation improved in 90%, lubrication in 80%, and an increase in orgasms was reported by 55%. The $359 device requires a prescription and is expected to be covered by some health plans.

In the Pipeline

Several drugs under development also may help women. The first is Uprima. Made by Pentech Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Buffalo Grove, Ill., it is awaiting final approval from the FDA for use in men and is now being tested in women. Meant to be taken about half an hour before sex, it's held under the tongue for 10 minutes, it quickly enters the bloodstream, and it acts on the brain to stimulate arousal.

Another drug, Vasofem, is under study by Zonagen, Inc., in The Woodlands, Texas. It's also meant to be taken a few minutes before sex and acts on the brain to increase blood flow to the genitals and promote sexual arousal.

Keep It in Perspective

Though these developments look promising, solving women's sexual problems won't happen overnight. For their part, women need to become informed about sexual dysfunction, ask questions, and demand new treatments.

Women like Peggie are role models. She's not embarrassed or too shy to ask her doctor about how she can improve her sex life. "After all," she says, "if men can have Viagra, why can't we get help, too?"

Carol Potera is a journalist from Great Falls, Mont., who writes for WebMD, Shape magazine, and other publications.

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