Let's Talk About Sexual Issues in Multiple Sclerosis

JUNE 02, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
neurology, multiple sclerosis, OBGYN, women’s health, men’s health, sexual health, sexual dysfunction, Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Center, CMSC 2016“Disabled people aren’t sexually attractive” is just one real quote – and myth – from someone living with multiple sclerosis. Sexual dysfunction and intimacy concerns may not be talked about among this population as much as they should be. Marie Namey, APN, MSCN, put the spotlight on these issues at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Center (CMSC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

In the general population, the likelihood of sexual dysfunction increases if someone is over 40 years old, has a chronic physical illness, and uses a number of certain medications. “And that fits a lot of our patient profile,” Namey said during the “Managing Symptoms of Elimination and Sexual Dysfunction” session at CMSC 2016. Up to 45% to 75% of people with multiple sclerosis report sexual difficulties – physical or emotional – and can occur at any time over the course of the disease. But sexual dysfunction is not a one-tier problem. “Sexual function and intimacy are separate things,” Namey reminded. The former is about sexual and relationship satisfaction while the latter has many more components, including mutual respect, commitment, love, and someone you care about.

There is, however, something that both sexual function and intimacy both have in common. “Communication is important, it’s the most important thing,” Namey said. A multiple sclerosis diagnosis can result in a shift in a couple’s partnership. Therefore, it may mean working on the other aspects of intimacy before moving on to improve the sexual side.

“There’s a lot to consider,” Namey said. “There can be some shame involved also.” Many people with multiple sclerosis experience psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety. Namey pointed out that many antidepressant medications can decrease libido. If someone does not have a partner when they’re diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, they can feel like they won’t find anyone because of their condition. Reminding patients of what intimacy is all about – not just the sexual aspect – can help them deal with the issues better. Namey encourages doctors to talk with their patients about it if they’re comfortable. “I bet that they would be relieved that someone is finally opening up to them to talk about it,” she said.

Namey often suggests to her patients to plan out their sexual lives again – so hopefully it encourages them to keep it healthy. There are many things to take into consideration when it comes to sexual dysfunction with multiple sclerosis, but a good place to start is patient-doctor and patient-partner communication.

Also on MD Magazine >>> More News from the CMSC 2016 Annual Meeting

Copyright© MD Magazine 2006-2018 Intellisphere, LLC. All Rights Reserved.