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My husband has MS and doesn't like sex anymore. Why?

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Updated November 23, 2008

Question: My husband has MS and doesn't like sex anymore. Why?
Since your husband has multiple sclerosis (MS), you may have already had to change many things in your life, such as limiting activities in hot weather, helping out during relapses or adjusting to other disabilities. However, the one symptom that requires the most “teamwork” to deal with is sexual dysfunction, which comes in many forms. However, this is also the symptom that most men are going to be reluctant to discuss openly.
Answer: Sex is a complicated process that relies on the central nervous system to generate arousal and sexual response. In MS, damage to nerve pathways caused by demyelination can affect an individual’s sexual arousal and response. Fatigue, pain and numbness can also create sexual problems for men living with MS. An estimated 85 to 91 percent of men will experience some degree of sexual dysfunction.

As women we often try to figure out “what we did wrong” or “what we could do better” when we are analyzing a problem. This is not the time to: a) assume that your husband is having an affair; b) assume that your husband is losing interest in you and start investigating cosmetic surgery procedures to lift, eliminate or enlarge one of your body parts that you are unhappy with; or c) start complaining to all of your friends and your mother about the problem. You need to learn a little bit about the problem and possible solutions, and (the most difficult and most important part) communicate with your partner about how you can deal with this as a team.

Sexual Problems in Men

Men with MS may experience the following sexual problems:
  • Loss of libido (interest in sex)
  • Reduced sensitivity in the penis
  • Difficulty getting/keeping an erection
  • Difficulty having orgasms
  • Difficulty with ejaculation (dry orgasm)
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty with the movements/positions involved in sex due to pain or muscle spasms

Therapies and Treatment

There is a wide range of therapies and treatments to assist men experiencing sexual disfunction. Some of these involve simple things you can do at home while others involve seeing a doctor or taking a medication.
  • Medications and Medical Treatments
    • Oral medications: Viagra and other medications can help men achieve and maintain erections, and are effective for about 50 percent of men with MS. In order to work, the man must feel aroused, which may require quite a bit of manual stimulation and other foreplay.
    • Injectable Medications:These medications are injected into the base of the penis. In contrast to the oral medications, the injectables produce an erection within a couple of minutes, even if no stimulation has occurred yet.
    • Penile Treatments: Various devices can be inserted into the penis by a doctor to assist with erections.
    • Muscle Relaxants and Pain Medication: These medications can be used to help spasms and pain that may interfere with sex.

  • Things To Try At Home
    • Vibrators: These devices can help if impaired sensation or slow arousal is a problem.
    • Oral and Manual Stimulation: These alternatives to penetrative sex can provide means to stimulate either partner.

Communication

This is by far the most important component of the solution to sexual dysfunction, and often the most difficult. Men with MS are probably already experiencing some degree of anger, embarrassment, fatigue and grief over the changes in their bodies, so there may be some rough spots starting a conversation about sexual dysfunction. It is your job to reassure your husband that you find him desirable and that this is not just his problem, but something that you will work on together. Again, while this may be challenging for both of you, you may just find that your relationship gets stronger (and steamier) after some of these discussions.

Sources:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Sexuality. From The MS Information Sourcebook. Tanya Radford, MS and Intimacy. National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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  5. Sex and MS – MS and Sexual Problems in Men – Multiple Sclerosis and Sex

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