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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Intimacy and Fertility

Desire and sexual arousal continued...

Women may have some, or complete, loss of vaginal sensation and muscle control. Both men and women can achieve orgasm, although it may not be as intense as before the SCI.

Your sex life will probably be different after your spinal cord injury, but sexual intimacy is still possible and encouraged. Your rehabilitation center may have a counselor or other health professional who specializes in sexual health after an SCI. He or she may be able to help you and your partner with these issues.

Treating sexual problems

Always talk to a doctor familiar with SCIs before using any medicines or devices. Discuss the location of your injury, possible side effects, and any other medical conditions you have.

You also need to watch for autonomic dysreflexia, which causes sudden very high blood pressure. If not treated promptly and correctly, it may lead to seizures, stroke, and even death. These complications are rare, but it is important to know the symptoms and watch for them.

Men who can't get an erection can use the treatments for erection problems (erectile dysfunction). These include:

  • Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5 inhibitors) such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). But PDE-5 inhibitors can be dangerous for certain men.
  • Medicines you inject into the penis, such as alprostadil (Caverject) and papaverine (Pavabid).
  • Medicine you insert into the penis, such as alprostadil (prostaglandin E1).
  • Vacuum devices, which help blood flow into the penis.
  • Penile implants, which are rigid or semirigid cylinders implanted into the penis.
  • Vibrators made for men.

For information on the treatment of erection problems, see the topic Erection Problems.

Women who have problems being aroused and have little or no vaginal lubrication may use:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra), a medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. It can also help women become aroused.
  • A vibrator.
  • A water-based lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly. Do not use oil-based lubricants.

Both men and women can use sensual exercises that you do with your partner to find areas of your body that react to stimulation.

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