Sexual health in men and women

Dr Maxwell Adeyemi -
Dr Maxwell Adeyemi -


The human body undergoes certain changes, from birth, toddler, teenage, young and mature adult, middle age, and then the geriatric years. These changes are natural developmental processes.

Men’s sexual health

Sex is an important part of life and for many men, thinking about sex starts early, often before puberty, and lasts until they die. On one level, sex is just another hormone-driven bodily function designed to perpetuate the species. On another, it’s a pleasurable activity. It’s also an activity that can help cement the bonds between two people.

Sexual health refers to a state of well-being that lets a man fully participate in and enjoy sexual activity. A range of physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors influence a man’s sexual health.

Optimal male sexual health includes sexual desire (libido) and the ability to get and sustain an erection (erectile function). Physiology, mental health and emotional factors can affect the desire for sex and the ability to have sex.

Male sexual health isn’t merely the absence of disease. Problems with men’s sexual health can manifest in many ways.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get an erection or to maintain it long enough for satisfying sexual activity. Many things can cause ED, including stress, depression, relationship issues, abnormally low testosterone, damage from urological surgery, and even cholesterol-clogged arteries. In fact, it is often an early warning sign for heart disease.

Men can also experience difficulties related to ejaculation, including premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, or the inability to experience orgasm upon ejaculation (anorgasmia).

Male sexual health also covers the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and the assessment and treatment of male infertility.

Testosterone is the hormone that gives men their “manliness.” Produced by the testicles, it is responsible for male characteristics like a deep voice, muscular build, and facial hair. Testosterone also fosters the production of red blood cells, boosts mood, keeps bones strong, and aids thinking ability.

Testosterone levels peak by early adulthood and drop as you age – about one to two per cent a year beginning in the 40s. As men reach their 50s and beyond, some of them may experience impotence or changes in sexual desire, depression or anxiety, reduced muscle mass, less energy, weight gain, anaemia, and hot flashes. While falling testosterone levels are a normal part of aging, certain conditions can hasten the decline. These include injury or infection; chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer; medications, especially hormones used to treat prostate cancer and corticosteroid drugs; chronic illness; stress; alcoholism and obesity.

Women’s sexual health

Women’s sexual health, like men’s, is important to overall emotional and physical well-being. Many people think sexual activity is motivated by physical desire, and although this may be true for men, research suggests that women’s sexual motivations and responses may be more complex.

For many women, particularly those who are older than 40 or who have gone through menopause, physical desire isn’t the primary motivation for sex. A woman may be motivated to have sex to feel close to her partner or to show her feelings.

What it means to be sexually satisfied may differ for men and women, some women say the pleasure of sexual arousal is sufficient, while others want to experience orgasm.

Sexual dysfunction in women

Sexual dysfunction in women is grouped into different disorders – sexual pain, problems with desire, arousal problems, and orgasm difficulty. Changes in hormone levels, medical conditions, and other factors can contribute to low libido and other forms of sexual dysfunction in women. This may be due to:

1. Vaginal dryness. This can lead to low libido and problems with arousal and desire, as sex can be painful when the vagina isn’t properly lubricated. Vaginal dryness can result from hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause or while breastfeeding. Psychological issues, like anxiety about sex, can also cause vaginal dryness. And anticipation of painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness may, in turn, decrease a woman’s desire for sex.

2. Low libido. Lack of sexual desire can also be caused by lower levels of the hormone oestrogen. Fatigue, depression, and anxiety can also lead to low libido, as can certain medications, including some antidepressants.

3. Difficulty achieving orgasm. Orgasm disorders, such as delayed orgasms or inability to have one at all, can affect both men and women. Again, some antidepressant medications can also cause these problems.

4. Pain during sex. Pain is sometimes from a known cause, such as vaginal dryness or endometriosis. But sometimes the cause of painful sex is elusive.

Sexual dysfunction in men

The types of sexual dysfunction men may experience include:

1.Erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can be caused by medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or by anxiety about having sex. Depression, fatigue, and stress can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.

2. Ejaculation problems. These include premature ejaculation and the inability to ejaculate at all. Causes include medications, anxiety about sex, a history of sexual trauma, and strict religious beliefs.

3. Low libido. Psychological issues like stress and depression, as well as anxiety about having sex also can lead to a decreased or no sexual desire. Decreased hormone levels (low testosterone), physical illnesses, and medication side effects may also diminish libido in men.

Talking about sexual health

You may feel uncomfortable talking about your sexual experiences and desires but sharing your thoughts and expectations with your partner can bring you closer together and help you experience greater sexual enjoyment.

1. Admit your discomfort. If you feel anxious, say so. Opening up about your concerns may help you start the conversation. Once you begin the conversation, your confidence and comfort level may increase.

2. Set a time limit. Avoid overwhelming each other with a lengthy talk. Your conversations about sexual experiences and desires will get easier the more you talk.

Sexual needs vary and many factors can affect your sexual appetite, from stress, illness and aging to family, career and social commitments. Whatever the cause, differences in sexual desire between partners can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation or resentment.

Intimacy is more than just sexual needs. Intimacy also includes emotional, spiritual, physical and recreational needs.

There could be differences in sexual desire. Discuss them and try to explore options that will satisfy both of you. If a particular medication is affecting your comfort with sex or desire for sex, your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative. If a physical sign or symptom such as vaginal dryness is interfering with your sexual enjoyment, ask about treatment options.

Dealing with sexual dysfunction

If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction you should:

• Get an accurate diagnosis and the proper treatment for any underlying medical condition

• Talk to your partner openly about your sexual relationship

• Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drug use

• Manage stress, anxiety, and depression

• Get creative and re-energise your sexual routine

Contact Dr Maxwell on 363-1807 or 757-5411.


"Sexual health in men and women"

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