Introduction: Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a common problem that is often treatment refractory. This refractoriness to treatment is reflective of our lack of knowledge concerning the determinants of sexual libido in women.
Aim: To review the development and current status of information concerning the diagnosis and treatment of HSDD.
Methodology: Literature on HSDD published between 1950 and 2005 was reviewed.
Results: Historically, HSDD was considered to be a psychiatric disorder. Thus, the diagnostic criteria utilized in studies of interventions for this disorder are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. This system was never designed to encompass organic causes of sexual dysfunction and has evolved by expert opinion. If the syndrome is poorly defined by these diagnostic criteria, this could limit progress in this field. Epidemiological studies have found that approximately 24-43% of women complain of low sexual desire in the preceding year. The percentage of the population meeting diagnostic criteria for HSDD is probably much lower. There has been considerable progress in the development of psychometrically sound instruments for the assessment of libido. The development of approaches to treatment was reviewed. Approaches to treatment have evolved in three major areas: psychological, hormonal, and use of psychopharmacological agents. There is some evidence of efficacy utilizing all three approaches. The major evidence of efficacy concerns the use of testosterone therapy. Long-term safety data concerning this treatment are absent.
Conclusion: There is a rapidly expanding knowledge base concerning the diagnosis and treatment of HSDD. However, the contemporary clinician is faced with the absence of an approved treatment for this disorder and the lack of clear guidelines concerning the indications and safety of the use of non-approved agents.