Sexual and Reproductive Disorders

Sexual disorders are those conditions, both physiological and psychological, that affect the sexual function, desire, or performance of any person, male or female. Reproductive disorders are related to sexual disorders, in the sense that the function of the same general bodily systems may be affected. Reproductive disorders are those that interfere with or limit the ability of persons to produce the cellular material required to conceive a fertilized ovum (egg) within the female reproductive system, or otherwise permit the natural development of the ovum to fetus and ultimately birth as a child.

Public discussion and awareness regarding both sexual disorders and reproductive disorders is a relatively recent phenomenon. Throughout most of human history, such circumstances were considered to be private issues, discussed only between adult partners, if at all. The level of understanding among typical adults as to the function of their reproductive systems and the related sexual organs did not extend to how sexual disorders were caused or how such conditions might be treated or prevented. The limited public information concerning such matters was generally restricted to physical conclusions—a male might experience "impotence," a woman was often said to be "frigid". Married couples who were not able to conceive were not generally able to access any scientific resources to treat the underlying cause of such conditions.

An example of the greater public willingness to discuss matters pertaining to sexual dysfunction is the widespread success of the erectile dysfunction medications Viagra, Cialis and their pharmaceutical competitors. These medications are marketed in a fashion that both promote a general knowledge of the medical condition that underlies the sexual disorder, as well and the resulting benefit to the user.

Sexual disorders can take one of many forms for both men and women; a number of causes are applicable to both sexes. The sexual organs in both men and women are controlled to a significant degree by the body's endocrine system, whose major glands, the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, influence and coordinate the production of estrogen and testosterone, the female and male sex hormones. Where the production of these chemicals is reduced within the body, due to injury or disease, sexual function will invariably decline.

Reproductive disorders may affect any part of the glands, organs, or external genitals. Such disorders may impact the course of reproduction from conception (the fertilization of the female ovum with male sperm in the fallopian tubes, the portion of the female reproductive system leading to the uterus). In addition to the sexual dysfunctions that would prevent fertilization of the ovum, a number of conditions will potentially prevent reproduction. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a common cause of infertility. STDs are a broad class of infectious diseases, which includes infectious diseases such as gonorrhea and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS.

The consumption of a number of varieties of both prescription and non-prescription drugs can significantly affect sexual function. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), a class of anti-depressant drug of which the brand names Zoloft and Prozac taking the medication. Alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, reduces sexual drive in the same fashion. The long term usage of both SSRIs and alcohol have been demonstrated to inhibit sexual drive in both men and women.

In the athletic community, various types of anabolic steroids have been established as having both pronounced physiological and physiological effects on the user that detract from sexual performance. One of the most studied side effects of anabolic steroids is the physical effect of the primary male sexual organs, the penis and the testicles, and the secondary sexual organs, the male breasts. The consumption of anabolic steroids will often cause the testes, the glands located in the male scrotum which produce testosterone, to shrink. There exists a clear correlation between anabolic steroid usage and diminished sexual function, while promoting uneven moods and breast development.

Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is a genetic condition that affects the development of male testicles and external genitalia. This condition is genetic in origin, caused by the presence of a mixture of male and female chromosomes within the body. In it most common manifestation, a baby may be born with a sufficient quantity of male chromosomes that a require a verification test (sex test) to confirm that the subject is male, even where the subject is female in appearance. In the complete form

Brazilian judo competitor, Edinanci Silva, at the 2000 Olympics. Silva suffers from androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS).
of AIS, the child will be born with testes that are subsequently removed through surgery.

At the 1992 Summer Olympics, five female athletes tested as male from a total of over 2,400 people. At the 1996 Games, eight women tested as males due to AIS. It is to be noted that persons with AIS, a genetic condition, are distinct from transgendered persons, whose decision to undergo gender altering surgery is usually rooted in the presence of a psychological condition, a gender identification disorder. Renee Richards, the transgendered tennis player who was the first such athlete to compete in the United States Open in 1977, is the best known example of a transgendered person participating in a sport in their new gender.

Among female athletes, the medical community recognizes a set of physical and psychological conditions that are referred to as the female triad. The female triad is often observed among athletes in sports where body image and physical appearance form a part of the competitive basis of the sport; gymnastics and figure skating are two such examples. The individual medical conditions that constitute the triad are osteoporosis (reduced bone density), eating disorders (where the subject seeks to improve their self image and to lose weight through either binging and purging or reducing calorie consumption to unsafe levels), and ammorhea, the loss or disruption of the menstrual cycle. Ammorhea in particular can contribute to reproductive health difficulties for women, as the long term disruption of regular menstruation cycles may be difficult to reestablish.

SEE ALSO Health; Hormones; Musculoskeletal injuries.