Sexual dysfunction in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: magnetic resonance imaging, clinical, and psychological correlates

Yoram Barak*, Anat Achiron, Avner Elizur, Uri Gabbay, Shlomo Noy, Ida Sarova-Pinhas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to examine the sexual complaints and severity of sexual dysfunction in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients and to correlate them with psychological, neurological, and radiological variables. Frequency and characteristics of sexual disturbances were reported by 41 multiple sclerosis patients (32 females, 9 males; mean age 35.4 ± 10.2 y). Clinical neurologic variables tested were disease duration, exacerbation rate, and disability; psychological variables tested were anxiety and depression. All patients underwent a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at the time of this study. The sexual dysfunction questionnaire included items based on the 3 phases of human sexual response: loss of libido, excitement (arousal difficulties, impotence, premature ejaculation), and anorgasmia. Five males (55.5%) and 16 females (50.0%) reported at least 1 sexual disturbance. The most frequent dysfunctions were loss of libido (26.8%) and arousal difficulties (19.5%). Females rated their difficulties as more severe. Sexual dysfunctions correlated with depression, (r = 0.68, P = 0.001). No correlation between MRI score and depression was found. Anorgasmia correlated with brain stem and pyramidal abnormalities (r = 0.56, P = 0.011; r = 0.56, P = 0.012, respectively). The total area of lesions (plaques) on the brain MRI scan also correlated with anorgasmia (r = 0.41, P = 0.02). Sexual dysfunctions in multiple sclerosis patients are frequent, are mild to moderate in severity, correlate with depression and in some cases central nervous system (CNS) demyelinating process, and thus may be related either to the psychological impact of this disease or to specific organic lesions in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-258
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Demyelination
  • Depression
  • MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sexual dysfunctions


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