Sexual dysfunction is a collection of diagnoses in which there is a medical or psychological problem that prevents a person from achieving sexual satisfaction. The diagnostic screening process can include a variety of medical tests or a frank discussion with a mental health professional if there is no obvious medical issue.
There is a long and varied list of sexual disorders, affecting both men and women, some of which are listed below:
- Premature ejaculation
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginismus or painful vagina spasm
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Lack of sexual desire
Sexual disorders affect both genders and require a varied of physician specialists to manage the symptoms they present. The appropriate specialist assesses the patient and develops a collaborative treatment plan. Some of the specialists are:
- Primary care physician (PCP): The coordinator of medical care and treatment plan for the patient, this physician is usually the first point of contact for the patient.
- Gynecologist: This physician is a specialist in women's health issues, including the reproductive system, breast cancer, hormone issues and pregnancy.
- Urologist: This specialist diagnoses and treats issues with the urinary tract in both men and women. Urologists are essential in the care of the male patient with a sexual disorder or infertility.
- Endocrinologist: Treating the endocrine glands and the involved hormones is this doctor's specialty. Endocrine glands include the pancreas, thyroid, pituitary, adrenal and in this case, especially the ovaries and testes.
The Diagnostic Tests
Depending upon the specific disorder, assessment and testing will be recommended by the appropriate physician.
- Physical examination: A complete physical examination by a primary care physician will start the diagnostic process. This should include a review of all medications, prescription and over-the-counter, to assess any side effects that might be causing the sexual dysfunction.
- Pelvic examination: This basic examination can include a Pap test and vaginal swab tests for a variety of STDs. The PCP can perform theses tests but a gynecologist routinely performs them.
- Digital rectal examination: While women do have this examination performed, in this case, it is a routine test for men to check the prostate gland. The PCP often does it but, in this case, the urologist becomes the expert.
- Radiology and laboratory tests: Depending upon the findings of the initial examination, x-ray and lab tests might be indicated.
Based upon the physical findings and interview responses, a treatment plan will be established, which might include:
- Medications such as Viagra, Cialis, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or antibiotics
- Vaginal lubrication
- Psychotherapy or sex therapy
- Surgery if indicated for such findings as an ovarian cyst or pelvic tumor
- Preventive measures such as smoking cessation, moderate alcohol intake, stress control, balance diet, exercise, routine screenings with mammogram and Pap test
Many people find sexual disorders difficult to discuss with their physician. It is important to bring this and all medical issues to their attention in order to assure good health and well-being.