We asked members of our medical staff to answer some common questions they
hear from their patients.
Q: Is sexual dysfunction in the elderly just part of aging?
A: Sexuality is an important part of overall health and vital to the emotional
and physical intimacy that men and women experience throughout their lives,
even into their 90s. Sex is important in maintaining a good relationship
for couples as they age, but can be affected by sexual dysfunction. Seeking
treatment is commonly avoided because of embarrassment or fear of judgement,
such as worrying that the doctor may think of the patient as a “sex
maniac” or abnormal. It’s important to bring all issues to
your doctor’s attention so they can be addressed. A lack of sexual
feeling and desire does not have to be part of the aging process.
In general there are some medical and psychological causes behind sexual
dysfunction regardless of age, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes,
obesity, smoking, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, kidney
disease, liver failure, alcohol abuse and drug use.
Younger people are increasingly being diagnosed with diabetes, high blood
pressure and experiencing sexual dysfunction at an early age due to a
sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits.
The side effects of medication can also affect sexual function. As we age
our body’s ability to break down medications and clear out toxicity
is impaired, which can lead to undesired side effects. The odds of being
a victim of polypharmacy (multiple medications) increases with age and
new symptoms like decreased desire or erectile dysfunction may be the
result of drugs.
Psychological causes include stress, anxiety, marital or relationship problems,
depression, feelings of guilt, concerns about body image and the effects
of any past sexual trauma. The success of treatment for sexual dysfunction
depends on the underlying cause. The prognosis is good if it is related
to a condition that can be treated or reversed. Dysfunction related to
stress, fear or anxiety can be successfully treated with counseling. The
key to remember is that sexuality is part of your overall health, and
if it is concerning you, you should feel comfortable talking about it
Nahida Khan, MD, sees patients ages 18 and older in Campbell County Medical Group
Internal Medicine in the
Main Clinic, 501 S. Burma Avenue, on the south side of
Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Woyming. Call 307.688.3636 for an appointment. Learn more at