I’m finally doing it, writing about MS and sex. There’s a LOT to include. LOTS of possible sexual Dysfunctions and I am an expert on none of them so I’ll try to keep my information sharing down to what I have actually experienced. You can find everything else about this subject somewhere else on the worldwide web.
The thing I noticed early on in my MS life was reduced sensation in the vaginal area. Strangely enough, this didn’t freak me out. It was a very localized area about the size of a dime, and only on one side. Since I was having problems with numbness on that side of my body in general (leg, arm, face) this struck me as…just interesting. It helped that everything around that localized area felt quite normal. All things about this disease back then were new to me; this was just one more thing. I DID NOT, however, mention it to my doctor. It was just way too embarrassing to talk to anyone about except my husband.
One of the very first things I worried about when diagnosed was, would I live? would I walk? And, would I have a normal/healthy sex life? For me, that last one was synonymous to, healthy marriage. I was in my very early 30’s and had a long life/marriage, ahead of me. It was all so overwhelming in the beginning that I stopped with, “will I live? and, will I walk”? When I decided the answer to those two things were a resounding yes, I didn’t have the energy to worry about the third one anymore. It was just too complicated. My husband on the other hand… did.
Years later when I brought it up to him, “Honey, do you remember when?” I found out that he not only remembered but, he knew the exact name of what had caused it. I don’t know why I was surprised. He had researched it, and everything else under the sun that could possibly affect our sex life, now that I had MS. How thoughtful of him.
The Nervous System
The human nervous system is divided into two parts. The Central Nervous System (CNS) is composed of all of the nerves found in the brain and spinal cord.
In my very limited knowledge, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the Central Nervous System. The inner organs needed for survival, are not generally affected by MS, that is the job of the Peripheral Nervous System, and because of this, generally affects the extremities. This is why MS does not directly affect our hearts ability to pump blood or our lungs ability to bring in air. This is good, yes?
The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) does consist of thousands of nerves that connect the spinal cord and the brain to our vital internal organs and the muscles that aid in their functioning, as well as to our sensory receptors. Ultimately these nerves DO need to convey their information to the brain, and they want to receive instructions FROM the brain.(Special sensory receptors are activated by physical modalities such as visible light, sound, heat, physical contact, etc .
More to the point:
Damage to the peripheral nervous system, which again, is the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord, the central nervous system, to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned, or the vagina is numb. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Like static in my radio, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Because every peripheral nerve has a highly specialized function in a specific part of the body, the symptoms that can occur due to nerve damage is endless. Some people may experience temporary numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations (paresthesias), sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. Others may suffer more extreme symptoms, including burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. People may become unable to digest food easily, maintain safe levels of blood pressure, sweat normally, or experience normal sexual function. In the most extreme cases, breathing may become difficult or organ failure may occur.
Even more to the point, I experienced:
In this case, temporary numbness in the vaginal area, and based on my research…this could have been much worse.
So…don’t sweat the small stuff!
Speaking of my research, these are the websites that I used. You can call me an internet snob but the truth is anyone can put up a site that says anything. For matters such as these I prefer to stick to more reputable sites like:
The National Institute of Health
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The U.S. National Library of Medicine
COMMENTS: Your comments are more than welcomed, they are needed. This disease can cause a million weird things to happen and nothing helps more than knowing that you’re not alone. I never mentioned this to my doctor but I DID discover on one blog post out of the millions I had read (exaggeration) that it had happened to someone else. I didn’t leave a comment and I don’t know her name but, gee, am I grateful that she hit the “publish” button.