Self-Perceived Reasons of Decreases in Libido in a Cohort of Women with Multiple Sclerosis

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Trinity Exhibit Hall
Katelyn S. Kavak, MS , New York State MS Consortium, Buffalo, NY
Barbara E. Teter, PhD, MPH , Jacobs MS Center, Buffalo, NY
Karen Zakalik, MBA , New York State MS Consortium, Buffalo, NY
Mitchell Kopacz, - , Jacobs MS Center, Buffalo, NY
Channa Kolb-Sobieraj, MD , Jacobs MS Center, Buffalo, NY
Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, MD , Department of Neurology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

Research has shown that people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) frequently report sexual dysfunctions, more so than age-matched healthy controls. Some have reported a decrease in quality of life due to sexual dysfunctions. One of the most commonly reported sexual dysfunctions is a decrease in libido. It is therefore of importance to investigate this in greater detail as it may lead to increased awareness by healthcare professionals and suitable treatments increasing the quality of life of MS patients. 

To investigate if women with MS experience a change in libido due to their MS and report reasons they attribute to this. 

Our sample comprises a sub-group of 237 women registered with the New York State MS Consortium (NYSMSC) who completed an extensive questionnaire about reproductive events and are treated at our MS care center. Independent Samples T- tests and chi-square tests were conducted to investigate whether age and MS-type differs between subjects whose libido decreased and those reporting it did not. 

The response rate to “Has your sex drive been influenced by MS” was over 94%. Hundred and twenty-one (54.3%) women with MS indicated that MS had influenced their sex drive. Of those, 90 subjects answered the subsequent question to specify their perceived reason for the change in libido. The most common reason was a decrease in sex drive due to fatigue (n=30, 33.3%), followed by a lack of sensation in 13 patients (14.4%), or a combination thereof (n=5, 5.6%). Some indicated that they thought antidepressants influenced their sex drive (n=5, 5.6%), while others expressed that they did not have enough strength or had too much pain to have sex (n=5, 5.6%), or that their partners worried about hurting them while having sex (n=4, 4.4%). The rest reported either another reason (n=9, 10.0%), or that the reason was unknown (n=19, 21.1%). Those with a decrease in libido were slightly older (53.7, SD=8.6 vs 50.5, SD=12.8, p<.05), but there were no differences regarding MS type. 

Our results indicate that among women with MS, most have experienced a decrease in libido, typically attributed to fatigue. Considering that only a small subset of patients openly discusses sexual dysfunctions with their physician, healthcare professionals should be aware that this sensitive subject is a meaningful issue for a majority of female MS patients.