MS and your sex life

If multiple sclerosis (MS) is affecting your sex life, you're not alone! A recent survey found that 72% of women and 91% of men with MS experienced sexual problems after being diagnosed with MS.

What kinds of sexual problems can people with MS have?

Men may have trouble getting or keeping an erection. They may also have less sensation in their penis. Women may have vaginal dryness, reduced sensation, or discomfort during sex. Both men and women may have trouble achieving an orgasm. They may also notice a decrease in their sex drive.

How can MS affect a person's sex life?

There are many ways in which MS can affect your sex life, including physical, psychological and emotional factors.

Physical factors:
Have you ever heard the saying "Your brain is your most powerful sex organ"? Believe it or not, it's true. Your brain is the place where sexual arousal begins. The brain then sends messages down the nerves along the spinal cord to your sexual organs. So if MS damages areas of the brain or spinal cord involved in sending sexual messages, it could interfere with your sexual arousal and sensations in your genital area.

MS can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, pain, muscle spasms, and loss of bladder or bowel control. These symptoms can get in the way of a person's sex drive, leading to "Not tonight, dear." As well, cognitive problems caused by MS may make it harder to concentrate and really "be there" during sex.

The medications you take for your MS symptoms can also affect your sex life. Some may cause fatigue, reduce lubrication, or make it harder to have an orgasm. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether any of your medications could having an impact on your sex life.

Psychological and emotional factors:
For many people living with MS, or those whose partners have MS, feelings of stress, anger, guilt, or disappointment may have a negative effect on self-image and self-esteem. These psychological issues may interfere with your personal relationship and your enjoyment of sex.

What can I do about it?

Although MS can present some challenges to your sex life, there are ways to deal with these issues and enjoy a great sex life. See "'Sexual Healing' time" to learn more.

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