Physician–Patient Communication About Sexual Functioning in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

Abstract

Sexual dysfunction is quite common among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS); however, severity of dysfunction alone does not account for the tremendous variation in sexual satisfaction across individuals living with MS. Individual characteristics, relationships with intimate partners, and environmental factors all likely contribute to the multidimensional experience of sexual satisfaction. Health care provider variables, including how one communicates with providers about sexual concerns, may also be influential. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that are associated with patients’ sex-related communications with their MS physicians and to overall patient sexual satisfaction. Individuals in an MS clinic (n = 73) completed a survey packet which included measures of physical and mental health, sexual dysfunction, sexual satisfaction, sex communication, health care provider relationships, and health care satisfaction. Findings suggest that while more than half of patients with MS reported experiencing sexual dysfunction, only a third of patients indicated addressing their sexual concerns with their physician during the past year. Interestingly, the frequency of communication about sexual concerns was associated with satisfaction with physician variables, whereas self-efficacy for these interactions was associated with emotional health variables. These results indicate that when considering interventions to increase confidence for communication and frequency of communication that differing factors may be taken into account.

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Correspondence to Lara M. Stepleman.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Stepleman, L.M., Lopez, E.J., Stutts, L.A. et al. Physician–Patient Communication About Sexual Functioning in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Sex Disabil 34, 239–254 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-016-9444-x

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Keywords

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sexual functioning
  • Physician–patient communication
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • United States