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12 Jul 2010

Spinal Cord Injury
Dear Doc

If a person has had a spinal cord injury and they lose a desire for sex or experience a complete loss of libido, can this return after some time? My friend (male) has a SCI and cannot experience an erection. The injury happened 6 months ago. Is it sometimes possible for erection/ libido to improve over time or does one need other medical intervention (eg medications) to stimulate sexual function? is it a case of the longer he leaves it, the worse the problem will get? He has cerebellum and cerebral damage to the brain.
Many thanks
Answer 216 views

01 Jan 0001

Dear Mary,

In the case of a male with a spinal chord injury there are a number of factors that play a role in sexual function. Firstly we need to seperate the concepts of sexual desire/libido and the concept of erectile function. When we talk about sexual desire and libido we are talking about what in men is both a psychological and physical phenomenon. The desire for sex can stem from a psychological/emotional desire for pleasure, touch, intimacy, connection, fun etc; it can also stem from a physical sensation in the genital area due to a spontanoeus swelling and erecting of the penis that happens to various degrees and due to various internal, external and psychological stimulation. It is not incommon due to the trauma of a spinal chord injury for the person to have a loss of psychologically based sexual desire/libido for various periods of time. This may return variably for individuals depending on how they come to terms with their trauma.

Then another factor that plays a role is whether the spinal chord injury is a complete or incomplete severing of the spinal chord and in the case of an incomplete spinal chord severing where along the spinal chord the incomplete lesion is situated.

In the case of a complete spinal chord injury men will generally not have erectile function and will also not experience awareness and sensation of arousal and pleasure in the genital area. Some men are able to have a prostaglandin injection to bring about an erection chemically and could enjoy the visual pleasure of seeing him penetrate his partner even if he cannot feel it physically.

In cases of an incomplete lesion some men do experience erections and sensation genitally. This will be individual to each person's case.

It will be helpful for your friend to discuss this in more detail with his physicians along his healing process and if necessary the assistance of a sex therapist when he is ready could be helpful.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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