Studies Document Female Sexual Dysfunction and Potential Treatments

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
May 2nd, 2000

Contact: Christopher Smalley, 617-638-8491 | christopher.smalley@bmc.org

(Boston, Mass.) — Female sexual dysfunction and treatment options were the subject of three studies recently presented at the annual American Urological Meeting in Atlanta, Ga. The studies, conducted by Drs. Laura and Jennifer Berman and Dr. Irwin Goldstein of Boston University Medical Center, observe the differences that exist in the sexual arousal phase for men and women, as well as report on the factors that contribute to female sexual dysfunction and potential treatments.

Aging, menopause and lack of estrogen are three factors that impact women’s sexual response, says one study on “The Critical Evaluation of Female Sexual Function: Effects of Age and Estrogen Status on Sexual Arousal Responses in 60 Women.” In the study, women with sexual dysfunction complaints such as low arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm, and pain or discomfort during or following sexual intercourse were separated into groups by age and estrogen status. Measurements of genital blood flow, lubrication and sensation were then taken pre and post sexual stimulation to evaluate the sexual response. It was observed that older women who were not receiving hormone replacement therapy had a significantly lower sexual response than the younger pre-menopausal women who participated in the study.

Besides menopause, the impact that hysterectomy has on the sexual function of women was also investigated. In the study, “Hysterectomy and Sexual Dysfunction: Effectiveness of Sildenafil in a Clinical Setting,” the relationship between hysterectomy and sexual dysfunction was explored as well as the efficacy of Sildenafil in treating these symptoms. Thirty-five women began the study by completing the Brief Index of Sexual Function for Women Questionnaire (BISF-Q). They then took Sildenafil for six weeks and again completed the BISF-Q. After taking Sildenafil, the majority of women reported a significant decrease in sexual dysfunction complaints, specifically complaints concerning low sensation, inability to reach orgasm and pain or discomfort during or after sexual intercourse. “The number of sexual dysfunction complaints is high in this population of women,” says Laura Berman, PhD. “Further research on the use of Sildenafil is definitely needed, but we are extremely encouraged by these early findings.”

In a third study, “Gender Differences in Sexual Arousal Responses: Implications for Qualitative Variations in Genital Engorgement,” Jennifer Berman, MD, Laura Berman PhD and Irwin Goldstein, MD observed the anatomical differences that exist between the sexes, specifically relating to blood flow during sexual arousal. Genital Duplex Doppler ultrasounds from normal men and women were compared to those from women with sexual arousal disorder and men with arteriogenic impotence. Blood flow was also measured in both groups using a variety of tests, both before and after sexual stimulation. The results of the study demonstrate the subjective and physiologic differences in sexual arousal between the sexes. “These differences are crucial to consider when evaluating and treating women who complain of sexual dysfunction,” says Jennifer Berman.

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