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Sexual problems for men with MS

Research suggests that more than half of men with MS will experience sexual problems at some point in their lives.

Here we explore why people with MS experience sexual difficulties, the most common problems experienced by men and what can be done to help with these problems.

Sexual difficulties – particularly erectile dysfunction and difficulty reaching orgasm – are common in men with MS.  Sexual problems often result from a complex interaction of physical, social, psychological and emotional elements.

You may find it awkward or embarrassing to talk about sex, but there is support available.  Although there are drugs for some symptoms, the key element in managing sexual issues is the willingness to discuss problems.

What are sexual problems for men with MS?

Sexual difficulties reported by men include:

What causes sexual problems for men with MS?

For many people, sexual problems are caused by a combination of physical, psychological, emotional and social factors. These fall into three broad groups:

  • Caused directly by MS damage to nerve pathways in the brain and spinal cord that control sexual feelings and responses
  • Caused indirectly by symptoms of MS, such as bladder symptoms, fatigue, low mood and depression or spasticity, or from prescribed medications
  • Resulting from the wider consequences of living with MS.  This can undermine your sense of self, sexual identity and enjoyment, and your confidence as a sexual partner or potential partner.  Emotional reactions can be an issue for both the man with MS and his partner, and relationship difficulties are commonly reported

Having MS doesn't stop you from experiencing sexual difficulties unrelated to the condition. Problems with erections and orgasms are relatively common in the general population and can be due to a number of causes unrelated to MS such as alcohol or drug use, other health conditions or age.

How many men with MS have sexual problems?

Difficulty with erections, orgasms and having satisfying sex are not unusual. Studies estimate that more than half of men with MS will be affected by sexual problems to some degree at some time - some studies suggest up to 90%. Some difficulties may be long lasting or permanent whilst others may come and go. Although sexual concerns are more likely the longer someone has had MS, they can occur at any time.

What can I do if I have sexual problems?

The most important starting point for managing sexual issues is being willing to talk about them. You may find it awkward or embarrassing to talk about sex, but there is support available. 

Finding effective treatment for your sexual issues needs careful analysis of all the elements that are affecting you.  For example, if fatigue is affecting your sexual performance, a pill that makes it easier to achieve an erection is not going to resolve the problem of physical stamina.  Similarly, medication alone won't resolve feelings of being unattractive or sexually less desirable.

Rather than focussing on intercourse and the pursuit of erection and orgasm, it might be more fulfilling and rewarding to explore more mutually caring and supportive approaches, such as focussing on touch and sensuality.

Last updated: March 2018
Last reviewed: September 2015
This page will be reviewed within three years

More references

  • Lew-Starowicz M, Rola R. Sexual dysfunctions and sexual quality of life in men with multiple sclerosis. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2014;11(5):1294-1301. Summary
  • Schairer LC, et al. The impact of sexual dysfunction on health-related quality of life in people with multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal 2014;20(5):610-616. Summary

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