A new treatment, traditionally used for overactive bladder, may offer new hope for women with sexual dysfunction, according to a recent study.
Electrodes are not the first thing most people think of when it comes to achieving sexual arousal. Female sexual dysfunction (FSD), a condition that ranges from a lack of libido to an inability to achieve orgasm, affects 40 to 45 per cent of women, especially as they age.
While clinicians have attempted to help women by prescribing sildenafil (better known by its brand name, Viagra), hormones, and flibanserin these methods don't always work and can have undesirable side effects.
That's why two University of Michigan researchers were intrigued after learning that neuromodulation treatments for bladder dysfunction occasionally led to improvements in sexual function.
Assistant professor Tim Bruns, said, "In this particular treatment, a patient receives nerve stimulation therapy once a week to improve neural signaling and function in the muscles that control the bladder. The nerves controlling the pelvic organs start out in the same location in the spinal cord and branch out."
Interestingly, Bruns notes, one form of stimulation is effective for bladder dysfunction despite an odd placement of the electrodes: near the tibial nerve in the ankle.
The current theory, Bruns explains, is that the nerves that travel down to the foot overlap near the spinal cord with some of the nerves to the pelvic organs, leading to a possible overlap in synaptic routes.
Sensing an opportunity, Bruns and his colleague, Nicholas Langhals, looked into whether the technique had been investigated in women without bladder problems.
Working with Michigan Medicine obstetrician-gynecologist Mitchell Berger, M.D., Ph.D., and urologic surgeon Priyanka Gupta, M.D., the researchers recruited nine women with FSD (and without bladder problems) for a pilot study.
Each woman received 12 half-hour sessions of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in which participants had electrodes placed either in the genital region or on the ankle.
Results of the sessions showed substantial promise: Eight of out the nine women reported some improvement in arousal, lubrication and orgasm.
The full findings are present in the journal- Neuromodulation. (A