OBJECTIVE: Sexual dysfunction in multiple sclerosis (MS) is a significant, but often underestimated and overlooked suffering. Interventions to treat sexual dysfunction in MS are rare. The relation between sexual dysfunction in MS and psychological as well as neuropsychological aspects is evident. However, this field of research remains markedly underdeveloped in this severe chronic illness. The aim of this scoping review is to describe the relevant knowledge in this area and to identify psychological interventions to treat sexual dysfunctions in MS.
METHODS: A scoping review was conducted to answer the following questions: (1) Which psychological and neuropsychological factors impact on sexual dysfunction in MS and vice versa? (2) What kind of psychological interventions aiming to improve sexual dysfunctions in MS are available? A comprehensive search and review of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL was completed by using a recent methodological framework for scoping reviews.
RESULTS: 23 publications covering a total of 13,259 people with MS and 532 healthy controls were identified. Sexual dysfunction was found to be very common in MS and there is an obvious relation to psychological disorders as e.g. depression and anxiety and also to psychological aspects as partner relationship and quality of life. The relation between sexual dysfunction in MS and neuropsychological impairment has only rarely been studied and no clear results were found. Only two studies were identified, assessing the effectiveness of psychological intervention studies on sexual dysfunction in people with MS, and a third study presenting a secondary analysis of a study targeting depression. All three studies reported significant improvements in sexual dysfunction as well as partly in psychological variables.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a pressing need for the development and adequate evaluation of psychological interventions for sexual dysfunctions in MS. In addition, sexual dysfunction and its impact on psychological wellbeing should be more focussed in clinical care.
REGISTRATION: This review is registered with PROSPERO; Registration number: CRD42016033066.