Multiple sclerosis MS can affect your physical and mental health, which can in turn influence your sex drive and sexual relationships. In a study of people with MS, more than 80 percent of sexually active survey respondents said they experienced problems with sex. If left unmanaged, sexual difficulties can negatively affect your quality of life. MS is an autoimmune disease that damages the protective coating around your nerves as well as the nerves themselves. It can potentially affect the nerve pathways between your brain and sexual organs.
Sex and relationships | Multiple Sclerosis Society UK
Sexual problems are often experienced by people with MS, but they are very common in the general population as well. Sexual arousal begins in the central nervous system, as the brain sends messages to the sexual organs along nerves running through the spinal cord. If MS damages these nerve pathways, sexual response — including arousal and orgasm — can be directly affected. Sexual problems also stem from MS symptoms such as fatigue or spasticity, as well as from psychological factors relating to self-esteem and mood changes. In a study of people with MS, 63 percent reported that their sexual activity had declined since their diagnosis. Other surveys of persons with MS suggest that as many as 91 percent of men and 72 percent of women may be affected by sexual problems.
Research suggests that sexual problems affect more than half of people with MS, but starting a conversation about them with a health professional can often feel daunting. We classify these as either primary, secondary or tertiary. The primary causes are a direct result of the MS, such as lesions in the brain and the spinal cord. Secondary causes are non-sexual MS symptoms that impact on sexual response and sexual activity, for example spasticity, pain and fatigue.
Having and enjoying a healthy sex life is an important part of living well for many people. Furthermore, sexual expression has health benefits including reducing stress, pain, depression, heart disease, prostate cancer and vaginal atrophy, among other benefits. Sexuality is influenced by a range of factors, including physiological, psychological, physical, cultural, and spiritual — some of which can be affected by multiple sclerosis. Between 70 to 90 percent of men and percent of women report changes in sexual function at some point in the course of their illness. The importance of psychosocial health and sexuality should not be underestimated.