Multiple Sclerosis Ms Lifestyle Intimacy Issues

If you’re suffering from multiple sclerosis and experiencing intimacy issues, you’re not alone. According to different surveys, sexual problems exist in at least 70 percent of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Libido and Sexuality in MS

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that damages nerve pathways. Sexual arousal is initiated in the brain but requires nerve pathways to function properly in order to send the signals to the sexual organs. If the pathway is damaged, the libido, or sex drive, is reduced as well as the sensations associated with orgasm in both men and women.

Sexuality is not the only area at risk with a reduced libido. Intimacy issues arise from the lack of closeness and bonding. For those with multiple sclerosis, sexual health issues can lead to fear of intimacy at a time when intimacy and overall support are most important.

Understanding the control that multiple sclerosis has over sexuality and the symptoms associated with it is the first defense against sexual health issues. Men and women with multiple sclerosis both experience certain symptoms in regards to low libido and intimacy issues.

Sexual Health for Women with Multiple Sclerosis

For women, multiple sclerosis can reduce the natural lubricants in the vagina, which causes vaginal dryness. These symptoms can lead to sexual health problems like difficult or painful intercourse and problems achieving orgasm. Several personal lubricants are on the market today as a remedy for vaginal dryness. These products, used generously, can provide an adequate amount of lubrication for fulfilling intercourse. Use lubricants made of water-based material. Petroleum materials or oils can disrupt the body and lead to infections.

Women may also experience a decreased or heightened sensation in the vagina or clitoral area. The decreased sensation, caused by damaged nerve pathways, can lead to a low libido. Women with multiple sclerosis need to talk with their partners about these feelings. The sensations can be intensified in other ways like massage or the use of a vibrator. Medications are available to improve sexual health and to reduce the pain of extremely heightened sensations.

Multiple Sclerosis and Male Virility

The most common sexual problem for men with multiple sclerosis is getting an erection. Erectile dysfunction-difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection-affects over ten million American men. Unfortunately, the condition can lead to intimacy issues because of lack of confidence.

Erectile dysfunction can be treated with medications like Viagra® or injectable medications like papaverine and phentolamine which increase blood flow to the penis. Some men can also choose inflatable devices, implants, or the MUSE system, which involves inserting a small suppository into the penis. Men may also experience a decrease in sensation or sensitivity in the penis.

Both men and women should communicate honestly about symptoms and changes in sensation. Suffering in silence mystifies the healthy partner and the growing resentment can alter the dynamics of a once-healthy relationship.

Spasticity and Intimacy Issues

Both men and women with multiple sclerosis can experience a condition called spasticity. Spasticity causes uncontrolled contractions in the legs that lead to stiff movements. If this occurs, positioning for sex can be difficult as the legs are forced tightly together or awkwardly apart. Doctors may prescribe medications to decrease muscle spasticity.

Bladder Incontinence: An Embarrassing Problem

Men and women with multiple sclerosis may also experience bladder incontinence. Bladder incontinence, a condition where the bladder is unable to control the flow of urine, can be embarrassing during intercourse. Treatments are available to help control urine from leaking from the bladder.

Communication and Intimacy Issues

While significant symptoms prevail with multiple sclerosis, strong loving relationships can still be formed and maintained. Communication is the single best cure for intimacy issues. The most loving thing you can do is to make your partner aware of what is happening and how you feel about it. Multiple sclerosis support groups, doctors, and health organizations can provide you with answers to your questions.


Barrett, M. (1999). Sexuality and multiple sclerosis [C6E 09/01] . Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Toronto, Canada.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society, (2003). Sexuality.