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Sex: When Things Go Wrong for Women

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In Goldstein's study, 32 women with low androgen levels received daily DHEA for an average of five months. The treatment seemed to increase their levels of androgens, while improving their self-evaluations of sexual performance.

The most commonly reported changes in sexual function while on DHEA were marked increase in sexual spontaneity, decreased time needed to achieve arousal, a return of sexual fantasies, and an increase in the duration of sexual arousal, according to the report.

Another study presented at the American Urological Association meeting examined male-female couples who came to a male sexual dysfunction clinic. The researchers found that many of the women -- who accompanied their male partners for treatment -- had problems of their own.

In the study, presented by Juza Chen, MD, of Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, 113 women were asked about their own sexual dysfunction in a series of questionnaires. The results showed that more than half reported at least one sexual dysfunction, and that in 90% of the couples the woman had initiated the clinic visit.

Almost two-thirds of the women had problems with orgasm, more than half had decreased sexual desire, and more than one-third had sexual arousal disorder, according to the report.

So what kind of doctor should women seek out when suffering from sexual problems?

Goldstein suggests they talk to a physician with a special understanding of sexual problems. And he predicts the emergence of a new category of physicians who will be specialists in sexual medicine.

"My dream is that there will be a class of doctor called a sexual medicine physician," Goldstein says. "And doctors who are sexual medicine experts will have to take on the female world. The traditional provider in women's health is the gynecologist, but there has been little research going on in gynecology in this area."

More women are seeking help for sexual problems, Goldstein says, and the days of don't ask, don't tell may well be numbered.

He attributed the change to the introduction of Viagra, the first drug treatment for sexual dysfunction in men.

"This is the beginning of an era," he says. "In 1998, when Viagra came out it empowered women to seek help for [their own] sexual dysfunction."

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