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Sexual dysfunction in women: Epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation

Jan L Shifren, MD
Section Editor
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Deputy Editor
Sandy J Falk, MD, FACOG


Sexual problems are highly prevalent in women. In the United States, approximately 40 percent of women have sexual concerns and 12 percent report distressing sexual problems [1].

Female sexual dysfunction takes different forms, including lack of sexual desire, impaired arousal, inability to achieve orgasm, or pain with sexual activity [2]. Sexual dysfunction may be a lifelong problem or acquired later in life after a period of normal sexual functioning.

The epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation of female sexual dysfunction will be reviewed here. Management of female sexual dysfunction and evaluation and treatment of dyspareunia are discussed separately. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of female orgasmic disorder are also discussed separately. (See "Sexual dysfunction in women: Management" and "Approach to the woman with sexual pain" and "Differential diagnosis of sexual pain in women" and "Female orgasmic disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Treatment of female orgasmic disorder".)


An understanding of normal sexual response is helpful in the evaluation and treatment of sexual dysfunction. The female sexual response cycle is divided into four phases [2]:

Desire (libido) – desire to have sexual activity, including sexual thoughts, images, and wishes


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