Sexual Function in Women with Multiple Sclerosis

By: Dagmar Amtmann   Rana Salem   Alyssa Bamer   Kevin Alschuler   Mara Nery Hurwit   Katie Singsank   Kevin Weinfurt  

This session examines sexual function (SexFS) in women with MS as compared to sexually active U.S. general population and the relationship between MS symptoms and SexFS. Paper surveys included the following PROMIS domains and items: interest in sex (interest), satisfaction with sex life (satisfaction), interference of pain and fatigue with sex (pain- & fatigue-interference), orgasm ability (orgasm), vaginal lubrication (lubrication), pain during sex, pain intensity and interference, and fatigue. M=50 represents the average for sexually active U.S. adults. Descriptives, t-tests, and regressions were used. Women with MS (n=479) were an average age of 60 years, 88% white, and 61% married. Participants who were sexually inactive in the past month (52%) reported more fatigue, pain interference, and pain intensity than sexually active women (all p<.05). Of those sexually active: 24% reported moderate to severe pain during sex; 15% reported pain and 22% reported fatigue interfered with sexual satisfaction quite a bit to very much. Satisfaction (M=47.6, SD=8.2), orgasm (M=45.4, SD=12.2), and lubrication (M=45.1, SD=10.1) scores were lower than U.S. population (all p<0.0001). After adjusting for depression, pain intensity was associated with lower interest (p=0.002). Pain during sex was negatively associated with satisfaction, orgasm, and lubrication, after controlling for pain intensity and depression (all p<.05). Fatigue was not a unique predictor of SexFS domains. Fatigue and pain contribute to less sexual activity and greater sexual difficulties in women aging with MS. More research is needed to better understand sexual function of women with MS and to develop interventions.

Multiple Sclerosis, Sexual Function, US General Population, MS Symptoms
Medical Perspectives on Aging, Health, Wellness
Focused Discussion

Dagmar Amtmann

Research Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, United States
WA, United States

Dr. Amtmann is a research professor who specializes in outcomes measurement with training in statistics and measurement. She has led or participated in many studies that developed new outcome measures, examined symptoms, or investigated relationships among variables related to quality of life with people with disabilities. 

Rana Salem

Research Scientist, University of Washington, United States
United States

Alyssa Bamer

Research Scientist, University of Washington, United States
United States

Kevin Alschuler

Psychologist, University of Washington, United States
United States

Mara Nery Hurwit

Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Washington, United States
United States

Katie Singsank

Research Coordinator, University of Washington, United States
United States

Kevin Weinfurt

Professor, Duke University School of Medicine, United States
United States