April 29, 2003 (Chicago) -- About two-thirds of women have some type of sexual dysfunction, and one in four women between the ages of 21 and 30 have a low sex drive. What's more, the number only increases with age, although the problem tends to bother women less as they age.
Frank B. Holloway, MD, with the department of urology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, and colleagues conclude that female sexual dysfunction is a significant, bothersome disorder for which most women desire treatment. They presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association here.
"We were surprised by the fact that the prevalence [of female sexual dysfunction] was so high -- higher than we expected," Holloway tells WebMD. "Very little is known about this, and the number of women who have the problem is not really known."
The researchers evaluated 1,141 women aged 21 to over 80. The women answered 62 questions that assessed their degree of sexual desire, and if they had female sexual dysfunction, how much it bothered them and whether or not they wanted to be treated.
Overall, 66% of the women had some type of sexual dysfunction. The most common sexual problem reported was hypoactive sexual disorder, or lack of sexual desire and activity, which was reported in 25% of women age 21 to 30 and in 89% of women over 80.
In women aged 21 to 30, other dysfunctions included not being able to have sexual intercourse (17%); problems maintaining arousal (7%); and problems having orgasm (12%). For women over 80, 67% had problems with intercourse, 72% had problems maintaining arousal, and 45% could not have orgasm.
"Based on high prevalence, high bother factor and high desire for treatment, it is likely that women feel that female sexual [dysfunction] is worthy of treatment," the researchers conclude.
The main reasons for female sexual dysfunction are unclear, says Holloway. "We were interested in seeing if it was even a problem or not, and how big of a problem it was," he says.
According to Holloway, since not much is known about the disorder, a women should tell her doctor if she has any sexual problems and then if that's the case, she may have to see a specialist, because most primary-care physicians are not well versed in how to treat the problem.
"It's not a problem that is easily treated or diagnosed," he adds.
According to Chirpriya. B. Dhabuwala, MD, a professor of urology at Wayne State University in Detroit, many women don't even know the problem may be treatable. "The next step will be to make females aware that there may be help available," he tells WebMD.
Dhabuwala also points out that if such a woman came into his practice, he would know to refer the woman to a specialist, but many doctors may not know about or appreciate the fact that the woman has a problem and might turn them away.