Ironically, it seems everyone from women’s magazines, radio talk shows and even the women of “Sex and the City” candidly discuss female sexual dysfunction. Yet, for a topic that everyone’s talking about, why is it still hard to talk about? Until recently, male impotence and erectile dysfunction were taboo subjects, even between spouses. Now, with the emergence of Viagra, men are now boasting their virility everywhere.

Female Sexual Dysfunction, or FSD, is not a disease; rather, it’s a term for a syndrome that includes a loss of libido or desire, decreased sexual arousal, lack of orgasm and pain during sex. The common thread is that all these symptoms and conditions describe potential factors that render a woman’s sex life, and that of her partner, less than satisfying.

According to the results of a 1999 national survey of people 18 to 59 years of age that was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 43 percent of women suffer from some kind of female sexual dysfunction. Additionally, FSD most commonly occurs in premenopausal women ages 18 to 50.

Experts agree that the first step in overcoming sexual dysfunction is to realize there is a problem. The next step, and probably the hardest one for most women, is to seek help from a professional. What makes it somewhat confusing is that the topic of female sex drive is a relatively new area of medical study. In fact, it was only recently documented in Campbell’s Book of Urology.

Doctors initially thought that FSD originated purely from psychological causes and treated them accordingly. However, it is now believed that there is a physical/organic underpinning to many sexual problems that could be alleviated with medical treatment and drug therapy. Certain medications and diseases, alcohol and drug use, as well as hormone levels can adversely affect libido. Menopausal and postmenopausal women, and women who have had complete hysterectomies often suffer from FSD due to hormonal imbalances.

“The development of pharmaceutical products that can help treat FSD could be a significant medical advance,” says Leland Wilson, president and CEO at Vivus Inc., a California company that specializes in products to improve quality of life for men and women with a focus on sexual dysfunction. The company is currently testing a topical medication called Alista to help women overcome Sexual Arousal Disorder, a major subcategory of FSD. Alista is currently being rigorously assessed in clinical trials to verify the efficacy and safety of the drug. An active ingredient in Alista is alprostadil, a synthetic version of a naturally occurring vasodilating agent found in the body.

“Because Alista topical, the medication only remains in the body for a very short period of time and will not produce the adverse side effects of testosterone-based treatments being developed to treat another type of FSD,” says Wilson. During and after treatment in the first clinical trial, women were questioned on such topics as level of sexual arousal, patient satisfaction with level of arousal and level of sexual satisfaction to gauge whether the drug helped them and the extent to which it helped them. Their responses were favorable. To find out more about female sexual dysfunction and Alista, visit the Vivus Web site at

Courtesy of ARA Content