Is there an equivalent of Viagra for women?

Answers from Jacqueline M. Thielen, M.D.

Given the success of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra), drug companies have sought a comparable drug for women.

Viagra has even been tried as a treatment for sexual dysfunction in women. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved this use of Viagra.

Indeed, until recently there were no FDA-approved drugs for treating sexual arousal or sexual desire problems in women. Yet 4 in 10 women report having sexual concerns.

A prescription medication known as flibanserin (Addyi) — originally developed as an antidepressant — has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for low sexual desire in premenopausal women.

A daily pill, Addyi may boost sex drive in women who experience low sexual desire and who find the experience distressing. Potentially serious side effects include low blood pressure, dizziness and fainting, particularly if the drug is mixed with alcohol. Experts recommend that you stop taking the drug if you don't notice an improvement in your sex drive after eight weeks.

Female sexual response is complex. For many women, sexual problems may be due to difficulties with arousal, a lack of desire or both. Many factors can influence a woman's sexual desire. For example:

  • Many women find that the stresses of daily life deplete their desire for sex.
  • Highs and lows in sexual desire may coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or major life changes, such as pregnancy or menopause.
  • For some women, orgasm can be elusive — causing concerns or preoccupations that lead to a loss of interest in sex.
  • Desire is often connected to a woman's sense of intimacy with her partner, as well her past experiences. Over time, psychological troubles can contribute to biological problems and vice versa.
  • Some chronic conditions, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis, can alter a woman's sexual-response cycle — causing changes in arousal or orgasmic response.

If you're experiencing changes or difficulties with sexual function, consult your doctor. In some cases, medications, hormones, creams, clitoral-stimulating products or other treatments may be helpful. Your doctor may also recommend consulting a sex therapist.

With

Jacqueline M. Thielen, M.D.

Sept. 09, 2015 See more Expert Answers