Learn the MS basics

Intimate symptoms

Intimate symptoms

People living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience a range of intimate symptoms including bladder, bowel and sexual problems. Here, we’ll take a look at each and how they may be managed.

Make sure you have a conversation with your doctor if your experience with any of the following symptoms is having a negative impact on your quality of life.

    Living with MS, you may find that bladder and bowel problems can limit daily activities and make leaving the house a stressful experience that requires a great deal of planning and preparation.

    There are two main types of bladder problems that you can experience when living with MS:

    1. Your bladder may struggle to store urine which can leave you feel like you need to urinate frequently and sometimes with little warning
    2. Your bladder may not be able to empty fully which can also make you need to urinate more frequently

    You may experience one and not the other, or you could experience both.

    You are less likely to experience bowel incontinence than constipation, but the two can be linked.

    If you experience bladder problems such as the uncontrollable need to urinate or the inability to empty your bladder, you might find them embarrassing. But you must be sure to talk to your doctor or MS nurse if these symptoms are troubling you and having a negative impact on your quality of life. They may be able to offer you effective medical treatments, as well as ways to manage the problems you’re facing day-to-day that work for you. These solutions may include things like incontinence pads, urinary self-catheterisation or intermittent catheterisation by a professional and could help to give back your independence.

    Living with MS can be a stressful experience. It can put pressure on your relationships and can cause a range of symptoms. You may find that MS is affecting your sex life by causing a number of problems, from lack of interest to loss of sensation. Some symptoms can be a direct result of the damage MS is causing to the myelin coating your nerves. These symptoms include: decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction and a change in genital sensations. But you may experience sexual problems as a result of other MS symptoms. For example, fatigue can lower sex drive and depression can cause sexual dysfunction.

    You might find sexual problems embarrassing to discuss, but they can have a real impact on your relationship. If you’re having problems, there are a number of ways these problems can be managed for both men and women. In women, treatment aims to reduce pain during intercourse and improve sensitivity problems or lubrication. And in men, erectile dysfunction may be resolved in a number of ways, including talking therapies and with certain treatments. Don’t hesitate to discuss any problems you have with your doctor or MS nurse, as they will be able to help find a management option that works for you.

Explore our series of blogs discussing sex, relationships and parenting to find out more about the impact of intimate symptoms and how to overcome them.

Interested in more? Discover more about monitoring physical MS symptoms and the importance of monitoring to ensure your MS management continues to limit the impact of MS on your quality of life.

    1. Sex, intimacy & relationships. MS Society UK. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-resources/sex-intimacy-and-relationships-booklet. Last accessed: October 2017.
    2. Managing bladder problems. MS Society UK. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-resources/managing-bladder-problems-booklet. Last accessed: October 2017.
    3. Managing the bowel in MS. MS Society UK. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-resources/managing-bowel-ms-booklet. Last accessed: October 2017.
    4. Sexual problems for women with MS. MS Trust. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/sexual-problems-women-ms. Last accessed: October 2017.
    5. Marck C et al. BMC Neurology 2016; 16: 210.

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