According to researchers, the high prevalence of sexual problems among these women may be linked to their age, degree of physical disability, and depression.
The findings of the study, “Prevalence and Psychopathological Determinants of Sexual Dysfunction and Related Distress in Women With and Without Multiple Sclerosis,” were published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Sexual dysfunction is estimated to affect from 40–83% of women with MS, “with the most common complaints being reduced libido, difficulties in achieving orgasm, decreased vaginal lubrication, decreased vaginal sensation, and dyspareunia [painful sexual intercourse],” the researchers wrote.
Although specific causes of sexual dysfunction in female MS patients is still being debated, a previous study considered them to be:
- primary, when it stems directly from the neurological damage caused by MS, leading to reduced sexual desire, vaginal lubrication, arousal, alterations in genital sensation, and difficulties achieving orgasm;
- secondary, when it arises from physical alterations brought on by MS, such as muscle tightness (spasticity), or fatigue;
- tertiary, when it is caused by emotional and/or social problems.
Although thought to be common, the prevalence of sexual dysfunction may be underestimated among women with MS, due to inconsistent use of validated diagnostic tools.
Researchers at the University of Bologna, set out to examine the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women with MS in Italy, compared to a similar group of healthy women, using a set of validated diagnostic tools.
The observational study involved a total of 153 MS patients (mean age, 47.3 years) and 153 women without MS (mean age, 48.5). All were asked to complete the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI, a 19-item questionnaire) and the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS, a 12-item questionnaire) to assess sexual dysfunction and sexual distress.
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