Exacerbation of Symptoms Among People with Multiple Sclerosis: Impact on Sexuality and Relationships over Time

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This study was designed to evaluate the impact of an exacerbation in symptoms among men and women with multiple sclerosis (MS) on sexuality and relationship satisfaction. A total of 321 people with MS (120 men, M age = 48.10 years; 201 women, M age = 45.78 years), and 239 people from the general population (79 men, M age = 53.93 years; 160 women, M age = 45.89 years) completed measures of relationship satisfaction and sexuality, and then completed these measures again 18 months later. The results demonstrated that both men and women with MS reported significantly higher levels of sexual dysfunction than did the general population. The no exacerbation group also reported significantly lower levels of sexual activity and of relationship satisfaction than the general population group over the 18-month period. Women in all groups reported significantly higher levels of sexual dysfunction but also higher levels of sexual activity than did men at each time period. They also reported significantly higher levels of sexual satisfaction at the 18-month follow up. These results suggest that men and women respond in similar ways to MS, and that people with MS do not necessarily experience poorer levels of sexual interaction or relationship quality when they experience an increase in their physical symptoms.

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