Sexual Function and MS
People are sexual beings by nature. Sexuality is not just about the physical act of sexual intercourse; it also includes emotional, intellectual and social aspects and other forms of sexual expression.
Both men and with MS can develop problems with their sexual function for two reasons. Primarily, MS lesions can alter the sensory (how things feel) messages and the motor (how things work) messages to the sex organs via the central nervous system (CNS). Secondary sexual dysfunction symptoms are related to the physical changes or treatment of MS; symptoms such as fatigue, spasticity, pain, bladder/bowel symptoms and lowered self-esteem can reduce desire and sexual function. Both primary and secondary symptoms of sexual dysfunction lead to changes in body image, decrease in sexual desire and delay in orgasm.
At the heart of sexuality is the ability to communicate openly with your partner. You must be able to talk with and listen to your partner about each other's needs, likes, dislikes and disabilities. You also need to express anger and frustration in a positive way.
Keys to a Healthy Sexual Relationship:
- Communicate your feelings, thoughts and desires.
- Express yourself sexually in a positive, healthy way.
- Experience sexual pleasure with and without orgasms.
- Use your sense of sight, sound, smell and taste to heighten your sexual pleasure so you are less dependent on touch alone.
- Have a good sense of humor with your partner.
Speak Up and Get Help:
- Discuss all your MS-related symptoms, including sexual function, with your MS provider.
- By altering the time of day and body positioning, individuals are often able to climax more easily.
- The addition of medications, lubricants, hormone replacement and/or devices can promote sexual function.
- Counselors, psychologists and sexual therapists are available to work through any sexual concerns you are having.
- A sex therapist can review your current routine and provide options to enhance your sexual pleasure.
- MS Dating 101
- Male Reproductive System
- Female Reproductive System
- Female Sexuality and Fertility FAQ
Visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) to learn more about sexual dysfunction and treatment options.