JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

[Aging and sexuality in women]

R E Nappi, F Albani, V Valentino, F Polatti, L Chiovato, A R Genazzani
Minerva Ginecologica 2007, 59 (3): 287-98
17576405
A large number of biological, psycho-relational and socio-cultural factors are related to women's sexual health and they may negatively affect the entire sexual response cycle inducing significant changes in sexual desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction during the entire reproductive life span. In spite of the high prevalence of sexual problems with increasing age, sexual retirement is not an inevitable consequence of the passage of time and a high proportion of men and women remains sexually active well into later life, a result of changing attitudes toward sexuality and the availability of effective treatments for sexual dysfunction. Population-based studies reported an age-related decline of sexual functioning and an additional adverse effect of menopausal status. Ageing per se interferes with the level of sexual performance, but sexual behaviour of midlife and older women is highly dependent on several factors such as general physical and mental well-being, quality of relationship and life situation. Sex hormones, mainly low levels of estradiol, are relevant for the lack of sexual awareness and vaginal receptivity in naturally menopausal women. Even diminished levels of androgens, as it more frequently occurs in surgically menopausal women, has a negative impact on desire and sexual responsiveness. Several hormonal treatments have been used locally or systemically to alleviate sexual symptoms, especially by using estrogen plus androgen preparations and tibolone, with noticeable results on drive, enjoyment, lubrication, ability to reach orgasm and initiation of sex. However, sexual counseling and individualized management is mandatory to obtain meaningful and long-lasting results in clinical practice.

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