6 Facts on RA and Your Relationship

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Having rheumatoid arthritis can affect the sex lives of men and women in different ways, but these challenges are rarely talked about. Part of the problem is the lack of communication between patients and doctors about sex. Here are a few basic things to know.

Sexual health and women

According to a 2006 study that looked at sexual performance in female RA patients, contributors to sexual dysfunction include pain, reduced joint mobility, disease in the hips, disease activity, younger age, fatigue, depression, altered body image and diminished desire.

Sexual health and men

For men, perceived problems with sexual activity included higher levels of fatigue, mental distress, functional limitations and lower levels of self-efficacy.

Sexual health and relationships

In a survey of 57 RA patients, 35 percent thought their disease strained their relationship with their partner. Reasons for this include curtailment of daily and social activities, changes in the balance of the relationship, emotional changes, and changes in financial circumstances.

Relationships matter

In a 2000 study of patients and spouses, researchers found that they were generally satisfied with their marriages. Lower marital satisfaction was associated with passive coping styles, such as escape into fantasy and pointing blame at each other. In another study, it showed that  psychological distress and social support were more important than disease status when determining marital and sexual satisfaction.

Medications and sexual health

Both men and women are subject to potential sexual dysfunction due to methotrexate use.However, surveyed nurses felt that while contraceptive advice for patients treated with cytotoxic drugs was discussed in depth, the patient's sexual relationship was not discussed at all.

Talking to your doctor

It is important to recognize all aspects of being a human which includes being a sexual human being. Bring up the topic.  Discuss sex with your rheumatologist and primary care physician.  Discuss how RA is affecting your ability to enjoy all aspects of living, including sexual activity.