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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2018 Mar;66(3):595-601. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15198. Epub 2018 Jan 24.

Women's Sexual Health and Aging.

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Department of Geriatrics, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida.
Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California.


Older women are often sexually active, but physicians caring for older women rarely address sexual concerns. Although women's desire for sex declines with age, a majority of older women rate sex as having importance in their lives. Women identify emotional intimacy as an important reason for engaging in sexual relationships. Women are less likely than men to have an available spousal or intimate partner and more likely to have a partner with sexual difficulties of their own. Up to half of sexually active older women report a distressing sexual problem, with low desire and problems related to genitourinary syndrome (vulvovaginal atrophy) being most common. Difficulty with orgasm in older women is often associated with a partner's erectile dysfunction. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasingly prevalent in older women. A minority of older women report discussing sexual issues with a physician. Most commonly, the patient initiates discussions. Physicians should ask regularly and proactively about sexual activity and function. Important interventions include offering practical advice to common chronic medical conditions and sexual problems that confront older women; treating vulvovaginal atrophy; and providing STI screening, prevention strategies, and treatment when appropriate.

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