Many Women Suffer Sex Problems: Study

"While the prevalence rates of sexual difficulties are in line with previous studies, these authors used a measure of distress associated with sexual difficulties and found that there was a much lower prevalence of sexual dysfunction than previously thought," Coleman said. "According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, a person needs to be experiencing distress about their sexual functioning in order to qualify for being diagnosed with a particular disorder."

Sexual Dysfunction Can Be a Big Problem

But despite the silver lining of these findings, sexual health experts were quick to point out that sexual dysfunction remains a serious issue for many women, one which can even affect a woman's overall health.

Sexual dysfunction may have physical or psychological causes, according to the National Institutes of Heath. Physical causes can include chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or hormone imbalances, while psychological causes can include stress, anxiety or even past sexual trauma.

Health conditions can also play a part, particularly depression, thyroid problems, anxiety and urinary incontinence.

But whatever the cause of the dysfunction, the effects of it can exact both a physical and emotional toll.

"Sexual health is as important as physical and mental health, and oftentimes these are interwoven," Minnesota's Coleman said.

Making matters worse, many women feel uncomfortable bringing up issues of sexual dysfunction with their doctors.

"One thing that jumped out at me in this study is that they found women are reluctant to bring up sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence with their doctor ... but there is a strong correlation between sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence," said Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Experts say that women need to be more vocal in expressing their concerns about their sexual health to their health care providers, as sexual dysfunction is considered a legitimate health concern for many women. Moreover, doctors should be more vigilant in asking their patients whether they are having issues with sexual function that are bothersome or distressing.

"Health care professionals must inquire about sexual functioning difficulties and ask if they are experiencing distress," Coleman said. "It is important to identify these problems and offer treatment as sexual dysfunction is related to overall health, relationship satisfaction and quality of life."

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