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Multiple Sclerosis: Let’s Talk About Sex

Sexual changes are actually pretty common in multiple sclerosis (MS). Approximately 85 percent of men report at least occasional problems, with the most common being getting or maintaining an erection. And approximately 50 to 75 percent of women report problems, the most common of which are loss of interest and changes in vaginal lubrication and sensation.

How you feel emotionally and physically, as well as how you feel about yourself, can affect how you feel and respond sexually. And because all of this is challenging even for people without MS, you can imagine how MS symptoms might make things even more complicated. Although it might seem uncomfortable at first, talking about the sexual problems or changes you’re experiencing is the first step in finding a solution.

MS and sex: Talk to your doctor

Most MS specialists ask their patients about sexual symptoms because they know that the problems are common. However, other physicians don’t. The fact is that no one is all that comfortable talking about sex (not even doctors!). And if you’re single or gay or lesbian, the subject is even less likely to come up.

Because your doctor may be one of those people who is uncomfortable talking about sex, you probably have to broach the subject in order to get the information and help you need. If the very thought of talking about sexual stuff with your doctor or nurse makes you cringe, you may want to take a copy of this article or the National MS Society’s brochures on sexuality and intimacy along with you to help the conversation along.

When you visit your healthcare professional, he or she will either make treatment recommendations or refer you to a specialist for additional help. Some urologists specialize in male sexual problems. And women are most likely to receive the information and assistance they need from MS specialist nurses or mental health professionals, or from their gynecologist.

MS and sex: Talk to your partner

Talking about the changes you and/or your partner are experiencing is important to maintaining a healthy sex life. If you haven’t talked much about sex before, this is the time to start, because changes in sexual feelings and responses can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted.

When worries and fears begin to build, it doesn’t take long for couples to find themselves feeling pretty uncomfortable. If you’re facing a similar situation, remember that communication has a much higher chance of success than this type of attempted mind-reading, so find a comfortable time and start the conversation.

Use the aforementioned brochures from the National MS Society to jump-start the process. Knowing that sexual changes can be a part of MS may help clarify the situation and relieve you both about what’s going on between the two of you.

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