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Sexual disorders in women with MS: Assessment and management

D. Cordeau, F. Courtois

Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Available online 5 June 2014


Summarize the data on sexual disorders in women with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Review of 99 Pubmed articles covering sexual dysfunction in women with MS.

Prevalence of dysfunction in women with MS varies from 34% to 85%. They include poor vaginal lubrication, poor clitoral erection, and anorgasmia, which correlate with level of disability. Specific brain stem and pyramidal lesions appear to correlate with anorgasmia. Age and duration of the disease correlate with sexual disorders, but not age at onset. Secondary consequences of MS, including bladder and bowel dysfunction, spasticity, pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and side effects of medication contribute to sexual dysfunction. Treatments can involve alpha-blockers or phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors to increase smooth muscle relaxation, while lubricants and oestrogen therapy can help vaginal dryness, burning and dyspareunia. Antidepressants can delay (or abolish) orgasm, suggesting reducing dosage or combining them with PDE5 inhibitors. Counselling should emphasize planning sexual activities, reducing fatigue, managing positions, preventing incontinence, promoting sexual aids, extra-genital and other sexual options to achieve pleasurable and intimacy. Psychosocial interventions should include couples’ relationship and communication skills to increase satisfaction.

Sexual dysfunctions in women with MS are amenable to treatments covering primary, secondary and tertiary consequences of the disease.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

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supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

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