Aging & Health A to Z
Causes & Symptoms
Your body goes through many changes as you reach and pass the age of 65. Some of these changes may impede your ability to enjoy sex, or to carry out sexual activity comfortably. Other aspects of aging may also contribute to sexual difficulties. The following are common causes and risk factors that increase your risk of having sexual difficulties as you get older:
- medicines that reduce sexual arousal, response or desire, including certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, medicines for blood pressure, stomach ulcers heart medicines (beta blockers), diuretics (water pills)
- lower natural levels of testosterone (in men), estrogen (in women after menopause ) and reductions in other important hormones
- medical conditions that make sexual activity difficult, tiring, or painful, especially arthritis , urinary tract infections, incontinence, prolapse of the uterus, endometriosis, vaginal infections, urethral infections (cystitis), or heart of lung diseases
- circulatory (blood vessel) diseases, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure , high cholesterol , diabetes that increase the risk of erectile dysfunction
- prostate surgery or radiation
- smoking habit (increases risk of erectile dysfunction)
- nerve diseases or conditions (e.g. spinal cord injury from a “slipped” or herniated disc, Parkinson’s disease , multiple sclerosis , stroke
- anxiety about body image and desirability
- relationship problems
- other psychological problems such as performance anxiety, worry about a heart attack , or “widower’s syndrome” in which a man feels too guilty to have sex after the death of his wife, or feelings worry about being “undesirable” after a mastectomy (breast removal) for breast cancer.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your sex life after beginning a new medication, tell your doctor. You may benefit from a switch to another product, or to a lower dose.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
If you are a man, you may have noticed that you started taking longer to achieve a full erection once you reached the age of 60-65. Your erection may also not be as firm as in former times. It may take more time to reach full arousal, orgasm and ejaculation as well.
For women, menopause brings a reduction in the production of estrogen, as well as other hormones important to sexual health. You may notice consequences of this, such as
- less lubrication and more vaginal dryness during sex
- pain during sexual intercourse, from dryness, vaginal thinning, or other reasons
- slower sexual arousal and general loss of libido (interest in sex)
- more difficulty achieving orgasm: need for more foreplay and direct clitoral stimulation
- reduced sexual sensation – leading to lower response
- fewer and weaker orgasms
- painful contractions during orgasm in some older women.
Updated: May 2012
Posted: May 2012