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Sexual function, intimate relationships and Friedreich ataxia

Sexual dysfunction (SD) is reported in neurological conditions similar to Friedreich ataxia (FRDA). Anecdotally individuals with FRDA report SD including erectile dysfunction and altered genital sensation. Understanding SD in FRDA assists health professionals identify SD issues and improve healthcare for individuals with FRDA. The objective of this study is to quantify if, and to what extent, people with FRDA experience challenges with sexual function and intimate relationships as a result of primary (genital function), secondary (physical) and tertiary (psychosocial) dysfunction. An online purpose designed anonymous questionnaire explored SD and intimate relationships. Invitations to participate were sent to individuals with FRDA aged 18 years and over on the Ataxia UK and Friedreich Ataxia Research Alliance databases. Date collection occurred between January and July, 2017. One-hundred-and-seventy-nine adults with FRDA participated, of which 107 reported current or previous sexual activity. Erectile dysfunction was reported in 57% (20/35) of males, inadequate vaginal lubrication interfering with sexual responsiveness was reported in 57.7% (26/45) of females, and 47% (51/107) reported reduced genital sensation. In addition, 88% (94/107) reported problems moving their body during sexual activity and 73% (78/107) reported reduced confidence about their sexuality due to FRDA. A significant negative relationship was shown between younger age of disease onset and SD. This study confirmed FRDA impacts sexual functioning, sexual satisfaction and the capacity to form intimate relationships. Understanding the nature and extent of SD is critical to developing interventions and recommendations designed to enhance sexual function, sexuality, and intimate relationships for individuals with FRDA.

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