Approximately 80 per cent of women with MS experience sexual dysfunction at some time during the course of the disease. Symptoms most commonly reported include reduced genital sensation, reduced vaginal lubrication, difficulty with arousal, and difficulty or inability reaching orgasm. Pain during intercourse is also a frequently reported symptom in women with MS, which may be due to vaginal dryness, spasticity or hypersensitivity.

In this study from University Hospital Erlangen, Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, researchers asked whether there was an association between brain lesions seen on MRI and the severity of sexual issues reported by women with MS.

They used a questionnaire about female sexual function to assess the severity of sexual issues, such as decreased arousal and vaginal lubrication both of which are essential for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Next, they performed advanced MRI analysis to find the location of lesions that could be related to sexual dysfunction.

They found that lesions in specific regions of the brain, such as those in the visual part of the brain or areas related to visceral functions (e.g. heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, urination, and sexual arousal) were linked to sexual dysfunction.

The researchers acknowledge some limitations of their method, and therefore future studies should replicate these findings before any causal relationship could be proved between brain lesions and sexual dysfunction in women with MS.

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