Sexual dysfunction is prevalent among women with multiple sclerosis (MS), and one way physicians can help improve their patients’ quality of life is to ask them about the problem.
That finding is detailed in the study “Sexual dysfunction in women with multiple sclerosis: prevalence and impact on quality of life,” which was published in the journal BMC Urology.
Sexual function is a determinant of quality of life, and sexual dysfunction is a frequent complaint of people with MS. That’s why it is important to assess its effects even though patients may be reluctant to self-report.
Now, researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran set out to determine the prevalence of sexual dysfunction among women with MS, and its effect on their quality of life.
A total of 300 married women (ages 22 to 50 years) with MS were interviewed face-to-face using a questionnaire that included several clinical validated tools to assess patients’ personal details (age, duration of marriage, education, and occupation), disease duration, clinical pattern of MS, physical and neurological disability, treatment, sexual function, general quality of life, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Regarding sexual function, researchers focused on the patients’ desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain over the past four weeks.
At the time of data collection, women had been married, on average, for 15 years and had the disease for 7.37 years.
Results revealed that 69.8% of the study sample had sexual dysfunction, with the dimension of sexual desire being affected in 38.6% of the cases, sexual arousal in 38.6%, lubrication in 23.7%, orgasm in 37.3%, satisfaction in 23.4%, and pain in 16.9% of the patients analyzed.
Sexual dysfunction was found to be significantly and inversely correlated with age, duration of marriage, and disability status, meaning that older women who had been married longer and had high levels of fatigue, disability and lower quality of life, had greater sexual dysfunction.
Those with MS and higher levels of fatigue were more likely to have sexual problems, indicating fatigue’s potential as a reliable predictor of sexual dysfunction in an MS scenario.
Additionally, in comparison to women without sexual dysfunction, women with sexual problems had significantly lower scores of combined physical and mental health.
Based on the results, the team concluded that “sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent among women with MS, and affects various dimensions of quality of life.”
One of the limitations of the study noted by the team is that face-to-face interviews may have made patients uncomfortable in answering some of the questions truthfully.
Overall, the team suggested that “greater attention should be paid to the sexual problems faced by MS patients in order to improve their quality of life.”
But because individual sexual dysfunction is a problem that affects not only the patient, but the couple as a whole, investigators suggested future research should focus on the sexual function of MS patients’ partners.
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