Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic conditions characterized by muscle wasting which results in progressive loss of muscle function.
Mobility problems due to muscle weakness and the lack of knowledge about sexual health can affect the sexual functioning of patients with muscular dystrophy.
Factors limiting sexual intimacy
Information about the direct impact of muscular dystrophy on sexual health is limited. However, it is known that physical disability associated with different types of muscular dystrophy can cause low self-esteem and a feeling of unattractiveness and being less desirable, as well as increase the risk of depression, which can all have a negative impact on the patient’s sexual health and ability to maintain relationships.
Furthermore, the assumption that patients with muscular dystrophy or other physically limiting conditions are asexual prevents them from receiving proper sex education. Doctors may also be reluctant to discuss sexual health with their patients with neuromuscular disorders due to lack of knowledge about how to address this issue or the fear of offending their patients.
How to improve sexual health
Open discussions between treating physicians and patients about sexual health can help improve the standard of care. Patients can also benefit from a consultation with an occupational therapist or a sex therapist who can guide them on how to accomodate their physical disabilities during sexual activities.
Muscle weakness due to muscular dystrophy can lead a patient to experience chronic pain, fatigue, and diminished strength and energy, which can interfere with sexual activity. Clear communication with the partner helps identify activities that are pleasurable for both, and a trained clinical counselor can facilitate such communication, if necessary. In some instances, assistive devices can also be helpful.
Sexual intimacy is a natural desire for patients with disabilities. Therefore, efforts to increase awareness is needed to destigmatize the sexual desires of patients with muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions and to improve their access to information about sexual health.
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