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Adrienne Dellwo

Sexual Dysfunction in Fibromyalgia

By October 5, 2012

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Research Brief

A new review of research demonstrates that fibromyalgia is significantly linked with sexual dysfunction in women. Researchers concluded that it is of the utmost importance for doctors to recognize sexual dysfunction in their fibromyalgia patients and to consider it when making treatment decisions.

The specific sexual problems identified included:

  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Decreased arousal
  • Lessening of the orgasm experience
  • Sometimes, an increase in genital pain (such as vulvodynia)

The also state that the stress of the illness, constant pain, fatigue and poor sleep contribute to sexual problems. Additionally, many of the drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia, such as SSRI/SNRI antidepressants, are known to have a negative impact in sexuality and sexual function in some people.

The researchers believe that doctors can improve the quality of life in their fibromyalgia patients by being aware of and attempting to alleviate sexual dysfunction.

Also See: Rebuilding Your Sex Life with Fibromyalgia

What sexual problems have you faced due to your illness? Have they influenced your treatment decisions? What has helped you remain sexual? Leave your comments below!


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October 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm
(1) Lois says:

I have experienced painful sex for a long time. Now with menopause it is much worse. I am taking a HRT for the menopause. It helps with some things but not with painful sex.

Before menopause set in I found that position mattered the most and planning ahead of time when we going to have sex. With no kids living at home and an understanding hubby I found the afternoon was the best time for me.

Why afternoon? Because it was before I got to tired and before my pain level increased.

Before talking to your Dr it can be helpful to talk with your pharmacist. He or She can tell you what might help. Then you have a plan to discuss with your DR.

I am lucky to have a understandloving loveing husband. It took talking and sharing articles on FMS to get him to really understand.

Good Article!!

October 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm
(2) leona says:

By dysfunction, do you include the fact that I love my husband and would love to have intimate times, but am afraid of the exhaustion and hours/days of sleep that must follow such relations? I have Chronic fatigue and fibro, and wish I could do more in many areas, especially the bedroom. My husband understands, and when I tell him his touch is doing too much for me, he backs off.

Before we were forced to adopt our current lifestyle, I did find sex very painful, but the exhaustion was what killed it.

October 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm
(3) Wendy says:

I have the same issues with sex. My medication is also an issue. I need it to sleep but I need to sleep or else I am up for the rest of the night. I have no idea what to do about it….he says he is ready anytime I am, but either I am trying to catch up on my sleep or I don’t feel well. Six of one, half a dozen of another. Its a real bother!

October 6, 2012 at 12:21 am
(4) Kathy says:

When I’m in pain, sex is the least of my worries :) But isn’t it actually pretty intuitive that we’d be less interested in sex when we hurt? That kinda seems like a no brainer, or am I missing something?

October 6, 2012 at 1:03 am
(5) April says:

I have issues with pain in the hips and knees from arthritis and bad back plus fibro tender points. In my mind I want to have sex but my body doesn’t want to cooperate. It’s so frustrating because I always worry my boyfriend will leave me and our son but for some reason he stays. I wish my body wasn’t so broken and would be more in line with my mind and emotions. Fibro and arthritis really suck when your young. People don’t understand why you can’t do things that are normal for people your age. I am 38 which isn’t that old but I feel more like 60 yrs old.

October 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm
(6) James says:

I’m one of the few percentage of guys diagnosed with fibro and can say this also affects men. When I do desire sex I know I’ll pay for it with pain and exhaustion for days. This disease takes so much of your life away, it really makes me sad sometimes.

October 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm
(7) whippydippy says:

I had lost my sexual desire for a few years, but after I stopped taking Statins I have got it back, unfortunately it did hurt and the next day I was bleeding, so I saw my GP who sent me to a Gynocologist when he examined me he told me that my vaginal walls were very thin and that was why it hurt and I bled. My husband is very understanding and when i said lets give it another go, he was frightened to touch me. I am very lucky I have a wonderful husband, I do what I can for him, if you know what I mean.
Gentle Hugs

October 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm
(8) Maria says:

This is one of my worst problems with CFIDS/Migraines/Depression. Either my symptoms have been too severe, or the drugs I’m taking kill my libido. My Dr prescribed testosterone for energy, but it wound up giving me back my sex drive instead. It sounds great, but now my husband says after waiting so many years, HE has no sex drive (he is also alot older than I am). Now I am sexually frustrated and regret all the years I’ve lost not wanting sex. He won’t go to counseling and doesn’t even want to talk about it. Sad state of affairs.

October 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm
(9) Lynn says:

Between a hysterectomy at age 32 and FM/CFS for the last 18 years, my sex life has been pretty non-existent. However, now that I have the FM as under control as it can be, my husband and I have discovered that we can have a (limited) sex life again.

We’ve found that the key areas for us are time of day and postition. I’m best in the afternoons, after the morning pain and stiffness (arthritis) have been controlled and before the evening pain and stiffness set in. Also, making sure I’m in a comfortable position (even sometimes cushioned with pillows) is a must.

I’m very fortunate to have a husband who understands (as much as he can) what I’m going through and helps me as much as he can. I’ve found that snuggling when I’m not too bad and keeping a sexual conversation part of our daily life helps me to be in the mood when my body is cooperating.

October 8, 2012 at 4:12 am
(10) Denise says:

I lived with the pain for years and went to a specialists with my friend… she is a nurse… She got told i didnt want sex in my marriage… 24 yrs later…. give over… a hysterectomy has helped especially in the middle of menopause…. A lovely Canadian specialists diagnosed the problem straight off and suggested a few things…. time position and when you have your meds all played a part….. being married 34 years now we dont have sex much BUT we have cuddles and love dates… My husband has put up with me in chronic pain for nearly 30 years… He even bought me a walker to help for those really bad days….. At 53 i feel 80 some days MOST people dont understand because they see a “normal” person they dont see the bad times… i really hate people telling me to “get a job” and “exercise”… Im lazy…. Nice to talk to others with similar problems….

October 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm
(11) Marti says:

I am 71 and my hubby of 10 years is 68. Until the fibro hit about 2 1/2 years ago, we had great sex, about once a week. I was working “on the road”, so time was difficult. When the fibro hit, I quit overnight, and now we had time for sex, but my libido vanished.

I have had to forego orgasms, as the amount of “action” it takes irritates my skin terribly. But my husband is beautifully sensitive, and much of his loving of my body is very enjoyable while not being “titillating” any more. This allows him to behave “normally” and me to have a great deal of pleasure.

As he still works, we have made Sat. mornings “our time”. We make love about 8 a.m. and then I slip off to sleep for a few more hours.
One suggestion — I’ve given up K-Y Warming lube as it exacerbates the skin irritation, and use Astroglide instead. I have an Rx for testosterone cream but have not started using it. Years ago I used it and it really helped!

October 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm
(12) Carol says:

Its hard at first to feel desirable after gaining weight. As if I wasnt heavy enough already, Lyrica added 15 lbs & I”m sure I would have gained more if I had continued using it. It helped with my pain, but also cut-off all sexual feelings. I finally realized what it did to me & told my OB-GYN & he prescribed Wellbutrin SR150, 2 pills a day & I eventually got better. I was so happy that it worked. I hope this might help others.

October 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm
(13) Maggie says:

I am 35, diagnosed about 3 years ago. I suppose my answer is different because I’m in my prime sexually but I find sex to be pain relieving and my libido is high. However, time of day and pain levels do affect me. I find evenings are best when my med level is highest. Also, I get sore hips/legs badly now so I often do ‘pay’ for it later. Fyi, I do not take anti depressants or any FDA approved fibro meds (same thing) and think this matters greatly. My view is my sex life is one of the few things I have control over and I’m not giving it up.

October 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm
(14) Joey says:

It doesn’t affect me at all, but I’m a guy. It may even make my sex drive better, since I’m banging the next door neighbor’s eighteen year old daughter as well has still having sex with my wife.

October 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm
(15) Ali xx says:

I am in the same boat with April, I have fibro and psoriatic and osteo arthritis. My relationship is young as such, I have been with my partner for 1 and a half years. We are still learning about each other and have only been living together for six months. My sex drive has been pretty low since we met due to the fibro, arthritis, and having both my tmj joints replaced with artificial ones. Due to all the pain issues, meds, etc and settling into a new relationship I cant say we have had many positive times that last for any length of time. I would have to say this is one of the biggest problems we have in our relationship and it sucks. He is a wonderful man and is fabulous when I am in my worst pain bouts, but the rest of the time I find the issues I am dealing with cause major problems between us with sex. It actually makes it hard to know where the health problems and relationship problems begin and end or crossover. I have had fibro/arthritis for four years so he knew what he was getting into of course, but he is still a man with a very healthy sex drive. We have a lot of conflict in our relationship due to our sex life. I hope we can sort it out. Hugs to all, Ali xx

October 13, 2012 at 5:12 am

I have had Erectile disfunction for years now meaning no sex for ages. I have tried for help at doctlors etc but to no avail. No one wants to help

October 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm
(17) eaglehaslanded says:

Someone should take note of “Joey’s” comments in this forum.

Totally unappropriate & not appreciated. Maybe Adrienne will see this &

ask him,kindly, to keep his filthy ideas to himself.

Thank you.

October 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(18) Laura says:

It hurts when my husband hugs me, but I don’t want to tell him, because I’m afraid he will stop, and I am in so much pain that sex???? Not happening, so hugs are about as physical as we get, and I don’t want those to stop.

October 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm
(19) sonya says:

My intimacy encounters are usually planned, so that I can prepare myself, (excercising more, and not taking certain meds until afterwards). Not very spontaneous but very much enjoyed. I pay for it two days afterwards, but I wont stop. This fibro isn’t taking this from me.

October 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm
(20) Carla Svehl says:

I have been sick for years, but have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for a little over two years. I have been married for 26 years. We have had a great sex life about twice a week due to our work schedules. We only see each other on Saturday and Sunday.
For just over a year and a half I have felt pain in the opening of the vagina. It feels like a file when we are having intercourse. Our sex life has diminished to maybe once a month. If I have had a horrible experience it may be longer. When we do I cry. My husband has been wonderful and caring. He has suggested alternatives which leave me feeling inadequate and guilty. Again I cry.
Out of all the symptoms of fibromyalgia this part of my life has been the most tragic of a loss. I went from being a wife to being basically in a platonic relationship. It breaks my heart.
I am blessed by a loving husband who is my soul mate.. I would do anything to erase the pain and get my life back.. if only in this one very important part of our marriage.

October 15, 2012 at 9:00 am
(21) Georgia says:

I am glad this topic was posted. For the longest time I thought is was just me. During the worst years (04-07) of having CFS/FM, I screeched into menopause without warning at age 49. This was at the time my thyroid was extremely challenged as well as most body systems.
I have been blessed to have a doctor of integrated medicine, who saw the big picture. She recommended Bio-identical Hormone Repacement therapy, which I have been on since 06. Still, I find that the libido has hit an all time low (even though I am physically so much better) and intercourse is dreadfully painful. Vaginal estrogen in addition to the HRT seems to bring a little help but is certainly not the magic wand I was hoping for. My state of mind, years ago, I believe had a good deal to do with lack of interest. I felt like a broken person. Times have changed for me and I am in a good place mentally and spiritually, feeling more like my old self….well, minus a few things. After reading the other posts, I am wondering if the Trazedone I take for sleep the partial culprit?
I too work at making sure my sexuality remains and refuse to let it go. :)
My best to everyone on here and to Adrienne for this wonderful site.
(By the way, I agree… Joey’s post is inappropriate.)

October 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm
(22) redhigheels says:

I would love to have a healthy sexual relationship with my beloved but I have not had a healthy sex drive for close to 4 years! He acts like he understands but I feel very stressed out about this whole issue. I used to have a sex drive that wore him out! Of all the things that I have had to endure this is one that has caused me alot of distress! I am between a rock and a hard place. Namaste’.

October 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm
(23) Maggie says:

I love my husband very much, we have been together over 30 yrs,have faced many obstacles and trials and are still surviving! I had a hysterrectomy at age 27, was put on hrt and suffered from its effects for 10 yrs until I decided to stop taking them and go natural, which worked well for a number of yrs. When my CFS and FMS began to rear their ugly heads and the pain became overwhelming through out my body, any libido,sex drive or what ever you want to call it, went straight out the window! I am blessed with a man who works hard at trying to understand what this stuff does to me and over the years we have come up with ways to still be intimate, not like we were, but in harmony with what we have to work with now. Like many others, there are days when even cuddling is too overwhelming and then, there are times when we are capable of more. We have learned to talk it out and I have learned to “not endure in silent agony” but to let him know when its too much. Commmunication is so very important, they don’t read minds and we don’t always “look” like we are in pain, so talk is good and will make the difference between a potential intimate moment turning into a agrument, with hurt feelings or it turning into a quiet moment of loving discussion that ends with understanding and love. Intimacy is a big part of marriage, but it is not the only part of it. Over time you should become friends and help mates to each other, there for when the chips are down, not just the good times and the great sex! Marriage is a growing relationship that, if we are each doing our best, should be able to weather even the worst of storms and still come out intact. I hope this helps. I, too, am disgusted by the comment from Joey! This is not the place for such nonsense!

October 18, 2012 at 11:43 am
(24) Carolyn K says:

My husband and I had been married for less than two years when I got sick in 2001. I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Over the first few years, I gained 30 pounds and lost my sex drive. With extreme effort I was able to loose about 10 pounds but never more than that. I could not exercise without causing a relapse. Even worse was the loss of my libido, especially being in a new marriage. I tried going to many doctors in efforts to get well. One well-known specialist gave me testosterone jell to rub on my arms but it did nothing. In July 2010, I happened to tell my gynecologist that I had no libido. He gave me a shot of 200 mg of testosterone. Five days later, I felt like I was 30 years old again (I was actually 63). I have been getting these shots once every two months since that time and they have been one of two actions that have really helped me get back much of my life. I am now 65 years old and feel pretty good on most days. Some days, I even feel great again. I have some pain and fatigue but have been able to start exercising and have lost another ten pounds. The other action that helped was having an Organix Comprehensive Profile – Urine test done to check my metabolism. The test looked at 46 different chemical reactions at the cellular level. I had problems with 22 of those reactions. No wonder I had no energy! The laboratory made nutritional recommendations, and I have a custom nutritional powder made that I take every day. The nutrients and the shots have helped me get back much of my life. My husband says I look like I am 50, not 65. I must say that the shots are what gave me back my libido. We have a great sex life again. I am so grateful to my gynecologist for giving me those shots!

October 19, 2012 at 2:26 am
(25) Mary Anne says:

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and CFS in 2006 after going through several very stressful years (divorce from my chronically mentally-ill husband, the death of my parents…). By late 2007 I had to stop my work as a nurse because of the fatigue. I’ve been part of a large lesbian community since then and love to flirt with and be emotionally intimate with other women. I can cuddle and kiss a little, but have had virtually no libido. (I am on antidepressants, opiates and Lyrica). I can still get off with my vibrator, but the thought of trying to comfortably co-mingle with another body is just too much for me. I have resigned myself to solo sexual satisfaction and am grateful for that, along with an understanding girlfriend, but it’s hard to really “glue” the relationship together without sexual intimacy.

October 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm
(26) eaglehaslanded says:

My 3rd husband never has had much of an interest in sex. At first, this really hurt my self-esteem. But, since the Fibro. hit, maybe it’s a mixed blessing.
However, ever since puberty I have been able to have “spontanious orgasms”. Some even while asleep & they pleasantly wake me up. :) Next is pleasureing myself thru masterbation. However, this happens less & less because of the degree of pain it can create.
I guess whatever can get us thru the rough patches because, I did read that orgasms give off positive pharemones (sp?) that help reduce pain & stress. That’s a very good thing as Martha Stewart would say!

(((Hugs))) from eaglehaslanded

October 19, 2012 at 11:56 pm
(27) Rona says:

12 years of severe chronic pain have definitely worn me out. And now I’m dealing with perimenopause. Ugh!
Thank goodness for counseling, communication and being creative we still have those intimate moments.
And we’ve learned that cuddling, playing footie and sitting up in bed enjoying a bowl of popcorn is just as important to us as making love.

November 29, 2012 at 7:24 pm
(28) HDC says:

The “dysfunction” I have been experiencing is quite the opposite. For a year now, I have the feeling of persistent arousal. I have yet to find a doctor to help me. I don’t know if it is caused from fibromyalgia, or some of the meds I have taken. It is very disrupting to my life and has caused me alot of depression and anxiety. I have lost my job and therefore my insurance which has not helped. The few I have confided in about this problem, either can’t understand or think it is funny or think I am either crazy or faking it. I know NO ONE who has had the same issue, so having any support from someone who understands has not been there. I feel isolated and alone at times.

February 5, 2013 at 2:09 am
(29) Amy says:

There is a name for your condition but I can’t remember it right off. I’ve seen a tv show about it and how dibilitating it can be. You need to find a qualified psychiatrist who specializes in sexual dysfunction. The condition is rare but it does exist–you may need to look at Mayo or John Hopkins. Goodluck and know you aren’t alone!

December 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm
(30) Katie says:

I am 21 years old and have had Fibromyalgia for several years now. I just recently got engaged, and my sex drive has been really low. I’m not on any medications and am just really confused as to why I am not in the mood most of the time, considering I’m madly in love with my fiance. We are trying to save sex for marriage, but I don’t even feel like fooling around a lot of the time. I’m just trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and if this is normal for someone with Fibromyalgia.

December 25, 2013 at 6:35 am
(31) Amanda Hiffman says:

Thanks for the post. I like it. There are some great advice.
Although it does not receive much press, <a href=” http://www.femelle.com/sexualenhancement.html“>Sexual Dysfunction in Women</a> is a common issue. Many women find that taking a female libido booster like FemElle can help.

March 27, 2014 at 2:20 am
(32) Penny Beaty says:

I know how Mary Anne feels, all my children are grown with their lives and families, my husband walked out on me after 14 months because my fibro made me fat, had to cut my long hair off because I couldn’t take care of it, so that made me & ugly, I wasn’t able to do or go much, and I wasn’t the woman he married so he was gone. June I’ll be single & alone for 3 years, my sister moved to WV and left the care of our mom in my hands, a month ago she had 2 strokes a day apart. I have no life, my only friends I have are the ones I talk to on facebook, I miss the companionship, some I can talk to or just sit and hold hands. I totally lost all sexual desire, and days I don’t even care for myself anymore. I befriended the Lesbians over 40 group on facebook, but most of them lived up north, were very active, always doing things, I left the group cause I knew I wouldn’t find anyone there, so back to the drawing board. Have been unable to met anyone from the local lesbian community, haven’t been able to find any fibro counseling or meet groups. This seems like a nice group, glad I found it. {{gentle hugs}}

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