DC COMMUNITY POST

Maintaining Sexual Intimacy with Multiple Sclerosis

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There are a couple things about multiple sclerosis (MS) you may not be aware of. One is that most people with MS live a normal lifespan. The second is that MS symptoms and progression are about the same for males and females, but women are at much higher risk, two to three times higher, for contracting the illness.

Although women are at greater risk, the disease does not negatively affect a woman’s ability to conceive and bear children. Despite the business of having to manage recurring symptoms, people who are affected can still procreate and enjoy the ups and downs of family life.

That is not to say sexual function with this illness is smooth sailing. A high percentage of both men and women with MS report annoying difficulties with sexual activity (two-thirds of women, over ninety percent of men) related to symptoms.

When living with a serious and chronic illness such as MS, individuals and couples often consider sexual problems of lesser concern than their other challenges. The business of managing symptoms also creates stress and anxiety that makes relaxing into enjoyable intercourse more difficult should the impulse arise.

However, not dealing with immediate sexual discomfort or dysfunction issues has longterm negative consequences for individuals with MS, and their partners. Because there is not yet a cure this illness, and those with it live into their senior years, it is vital to work at maintaining the highest quality of life possible, including fun in the bedroom.

Symptoms for Women with MS Include


  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Either heightened, painful vaginal/clitoral sensation, or a reduction of sensation.
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Lower libido
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness, body pain, muscle cramping or spasms, and the possibility of bowel or bladder incontinence may lower interest in intercourse or make positioning uncomfortable.
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, and diminished self-esteem related (or unrelated) to having MS can diminish sexual interest and function.


Symptoms for Men with MS Include


  • A reduction of sensation in the penis.
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm and/or ejaculation.
  • Lower libido.
  • Trouble achieving/maintaing an erection (the most common problem).
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness, body pain, muscle cramping or spasms, and the possibility of bowel or bladder incontinence may lower interest in intercourse or make positioning uncomfortable.
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, and diminished self-esteem related (or unrelated) to having MS can diminish sexual interest and function.


Available Therapies for Sexual MS Related Problems

Women who experience vaginal dryness can find relief with the generous application of over-the-counter liquid or jellied water-soluble lubricants. Medications such as Cialis, Viagra, and papaverine (an injectable) will help men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction; there are also inflatable devices, implants, and penis suppositories available.

Therapies for men and women:


  • Couples can enjoy the adventure of learning alternative methods of stimulation; for instance, using a vibrator to kick start arousal or enhance sensation.
  • Medications are available to help with muscle spasms, pain, or other abnormal sensations.
  • The use of medication, or intermittent catheterization, can address the problem of urinary leaking during intercourse.


The important thing is to keep the issue of sexual intimacy on the front burner after a diagnosis of MS. Do not hesitate to consult with your doctor about these symptoms. Continuing to maintain the highest possible level of intimacy allows both the person with the diagnosis and the partner to enjoy the comforting and self-esteem enhancing benefits of sexual togetherness.

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