Sex & Intimacy
Although sexual difficulties can affect the population as a whole, multiple sclerosis (MS) can bring about particular problems for both men and women. Not everyone with MS will experience sexual problems and, as with other MS symptoms, it is impossible to predict who will be affected and how long symptoms may last.
One of the reasons for sexual difficulties being more common among people with MS is that sexual arousal, response and orgasm require messages to be sent between the brain and sexual organs, via the spinal cord. If there is MS-related nerve damage in the parts of the brain and spinal cord that are involved, sexual function may be affected.
Sexuality – that is, how we think of and express ourselves sexually – may also be affected by MS. Physical symptoms like fatigue and spasms, and psychological factors such as low self-esteem and mood, can also affect sexual activity and desire. Other things in life unrelated to MS, such as having children and getting older, may also play a role.
As many factors may be involved, sexual problems vary a great deal between people with MS, and it may be hard to identify a single cause for a particular problem. However, understanding of MS-related sexual problems has improved greatly in recent years, and various treatments are now available.
Getting accurate information and communicating openly with your partner and professionals can also help to minimise problems. If difficulties have already developed, there are techniques that can improve communication and understanding, and help you to adapt to new dynamics within your relationships.
Many people, both with and without MS, have successful and satisfying relationships despite experiencing sexual difficulties.