Even though low sex drive is a common issue in both men and women, it’s distressing for anyone to experience a negative change in their sex drive, especially if they had a high libido in the past. Whether due to embarrassment or some other factor, a lot of people also don't know where to turn for help. Fortunately, patients can take control of their sexual health by opening up to their doctor about this problem. Through discussion and evaluation, they may learn the reason for their decreased libido and can explore their options for how to get back to feeling like themselves.
What Are the Main Causes?
Although low libido in men is talked about much more frequently, this issue affects women as well. Some of the reasons for a low sex drive in men also can affect women. These include:
Poor sleep habits
Alcohol or drug use
Medications, such as chemotherapy agents (note: hormones used to treat prostate cancer affect only men), steroids, pain medications and certain antidepressants
Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety
Chronic illnesses and metabolic disorders, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney failure and heart disease
What Causes Low Sex Drive in Women?
Issues with libido in women can be caused by a range of issues (including those mentioned above) especially after a woman enters menopause. During menopause, women often experience a drop in both estrogen and testosterone. They also may experience dryness of the vagina, which can lead to painful intercourse. Furthermore, women often undergo hormonal changes during pregnancy, leading to a lowered libido.
What Causes Low Sex Drive in Men?
To begin with, what men may think is low sex drive often turns out to be erectile dysfunction. Even though these two conditions are related, the evaluation and treatment are separate. It’s generally a straightforward process to diagnose and treat erectile dysfunction.
However, because low sex drive can be caused by a wide range of factors, it’s more complex to diagnose and uncover the causes. The workup may start with a conversation with your doctor covering your past medical history, mental health, an exam and labs evaluating your hormones. I diagnose many men in my office with low testosterone as the cause of their libido issues. This is not always the cause, however.
Men’s sex drives also can be affected by low blood pressure in a roundabout way. By taking medications that lower their blood pressure, men may experience a change in their circulation, which can then affect the ability to get or maintain an erection. This inability can naturally lead to a decline in a man’s sex drive. Keep in mind that those who are on high blood pressure medications also may have issues with cholesterol, diabetes or obesity, which are all causes of low libido.
Overall, there’s no easy answer, which is why it’s vital to speak with a doctor and to eat right and exercise.
How Is a Low Libido Treated?
There are numerous reasons men struggle with their sex drives. The great news is that there also are numerous treatment options to help with those symptoms. Due to the wide range of causes for a low libido, treatment must start with a conversation with a doctor or sexual health expert. Appropriate treatments could range from lifestyle changes (losing weight, getting sober, sleeping better) to medical decisions (changing medications or doses, seeking therapy), to starting hormone replacement therapy with testosterone.
For women, depending on the cause, specific treatments also may include estrogen therapy, or addressing an anatomical issue that could be inhibiting their ability to have sexual relations. Overall, although it may seem difficult, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor if you are experiencing any issue with your sex drive.
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