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Sexual dysfunction in older adults

Marc Agronin, MD
Section Editor
Murray B Stein, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Clinicians are increasingly likely to encounter older patients seeking help with sexual dysfunction. More individuals are living into late life, a significant proportion of which remain sexually active.

The proportion of older adults that remain sexually active may be increasing. Openness and acceptance about the role of sexuality in late life has expanded. Medication and other treatments have been developed that enable individuals to maintain successful sexual functioning regardless of age.

This topic discusses the presentation, assessment, and management of sexual dysfunction in older adults, defined as individuals 65 years and older. Diagnosis and management of specific sexual disorders are discussed separately. (See "Overview of male sexual dysfunction" and "Evaluation of male sexual dysfunction" and "Treatment of male sexual dysfunction" and "Sexual dysfunction in women: Epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation" and "Sexual dysfunction in women: Management" and "Female orgasmic disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Treatment of female orgasmic disorder" and "Approach to the woman with sexual pain" and "Differential diagnosis of sexual pain in women".)


The current model of normal sexual function across the lifespan is anchored in five stages of psychological and physiological changes: desire, arousal or excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution [1-3].

Desire (or libido) refers to psychological urges, thoughts and fantasies of sexual activity. It is centered in the hypothalamus and surrounding limbic structures and is stimulated by testosterone in both men and women [4].  

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 05, 2016.
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