Will LEMS Affect my Sex Life?

Brian Murphy Ph.D. avatar

by Brian Murphy Ph.D. |

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Receiving a diagnosis of Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) may have you wondering whether the autoimmune disease will affect your sex life. Or you may already be experiencing difficulties. Below is some information about how LEMS may affect your sexual activity and some tips on how to limit its impact.

How can LEMS affect my sex life?

The disease can have a variety of physical and psychosocial symptoms that can interfere with a person’s sex life.

Physical effects

LEMS can lead to a number of symptoms that can physically affect you. The disease primarily impacts the neuromuscular system, causing weakness in voluntary muscles. It also can affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary muscle activity such as body temperature, pupil dilation, and heart rate. The autonomic nervous system also controls sexual responses such as arousal and the production of natural lubricants. Thus, the impairment of the autonomic nervous system can lead to erectile dysfunction and a loss of sex drive.

Medications that you are taking to treat LEMS also may affect your sex life. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, can result in lower levels of testosterone, which can in turn lead to lower sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.

Other physical symptoms can indirectly lead to a decrease in sex drive. These include muscle weakness, chronic pain, and constipation. These symptoms can all make it difficult or uncomfortable for you to perform sexual activity.

Psychosocial effects

There are a variety of emotional and psychological effects of LEMS that can affect sexual activity.

LEMS can lead to weight loss, droopy eyelids, and impaired movement such as walking. This can lead to changes in body image, which can be directly linked to sexual wellbeing.

Grief about your diagnosis can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression for both you and your partner. That also can lead to disinterest in sex for one or both of you.

Your diagnosis also can alter partner dynamics. Relationship issues prior to your diagnosis can be made worse due to stress, leading to a lack of connection. Symptoms of LEMS and/or related cancer can lead to an increased reliance on your partner to be your caregiver. The changing role of your partner can lead to changes in feelings toward each other, such as nurse-to-patient or even parent-to-child, depending on the level of care. These changing roles can lead to a loss of interest in sex by one or both partners.

Strategies for optimizing your sex life

Despite all of the effects LEMS can have on your sex life, there are still ways to connect with your partner and have sex.

If you have weakness or pain keeping you from sexual activity, consider changes in position during intercourse. A warm shower ahead of time may help with any muscle tightness or pain. Planning sexual activity around 30 minutes after taking your pain medication also may alleviate pain and make sex more enjoyable. Finally, it may be helpful to plan your sexual activity for times during the day when your symptoms are less severe.

Lifestyle changes also may help with sexual dysfunction. Reducing stress, quitting smoking, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and reducing or limiting alcohol consumption can all improve erectile dysfunction.

If you are still having trouble with sexual activity, consulting a professional may be a good idea. Your physician may be able to reduce or change some of your medications, which may help. A sexual therapist may be able to suggest strategies of how to increase sexual desire in you or your partner using methods such as the PLISSIT model of intervention. They also can recommend activities to develop alternative sexual expression and intimate contact.


Last updated: Sept. 28, 2020


Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.