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.
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 to discuss. Fortunately, most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable, so it is important to share your concerns with your partner and doctor.
If you're a woman, you may have no symptoms at all, or you may experience:
A greenish yellow, frothy vaginal discharge with a pronounced odor
Vaginal itching or irritation
Discomfort during urination
Pain in the lower abdomen
If you're a man, you'll probably have no symptoms, or you may experience some penile irritation, discomfort when urinating, or discharge.
Sexual dysfunction can be a result of a physical or psychological condition.
Physical causes: Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diabetes, heart and vascular (blood vessel) disease, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic diseases such as kidney or liver failure, and alcoholism and drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.
Psychological causes: These include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma.
Who Is Affected by Sexual Problems?
Both men and women are affected by sexual problems. They can occur in adults of all ages. Among those commonly affected are seniors, which may be related to a decline in health associated with aging.
Inhibited or retarded ejaculation -- This is when ejaculation is slow to occur.
Retrograde ejaculation -- This occurs when, at orgasm, the ejaculate is forced back into the bladder rather than through the urethra and out the end of the penis.
Premature ejaculation, the most common form of sexual dysfunction in men, often is due to nervousness over how well he will perform during sex. In some cases, premature and inhibited ejaculation are caused by a lack of attraction for a partner, past traumatic events, and psychological factors, including a strict religious background that causes the person to view sex as sinful. Certain drugs, including some antidepressants, may affect ejaculation, as can nerve damage to the spinal cord or back.
Retrograde ejaculation is common in males with diabetes who suffer from diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). This is due to problems with the nerves in the bladder and the bladder neck that allow the ejaculate to flow backward and into the bladder. In other men, retrograde ejaculation occurs after operations on the bladder neck or prostate, or after certain abdominal operations. In addition, certain medications, particularly those used to treat mood disorders, may cause problems with ejaculation. This generally does not require treatment unless it impairs fertility.