Primary Sjögren’s syndrome linked to sexual dysfunction in women

Primary Sjögren's syndrome linked to sexual dysfunction in womenPrimary Sjögren’s syndrome is linked to sexual dysfunction in women. Researchers of the study strongly warn that sexual dysfunction should not be ignored in Sjögren’s syndrome patients, as it’s been uncovered that women living with the condition experienced increased sexual dysfunction, compared to controls.

Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth and dry eyes, along with other symptoms. Vaginal dryness is another common problem in primary Sjögren’s syndrome which can contribute to sexual dysfunction.


Jolien F. van Nimwegen and colleagues from the University Medical Center, Groningen, compared sexual function and sexual distress in women with primary Sjögren’s syndrome and in healthy controls. Women had to complete questionnaires, answering questions on their sexual function, sexual distress, fatigue levels, anxiety and depression levels.

Women with primary Sjögren’s syndrome scored worse for levels of desire, arousal, orgasm, lubrication, and pain during intercourse, compared to healthy controls, revealing a higher level of sexual dysfunction. Patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome had greater sexual impairment, impaired sexual function, and greater distress with regards to sexual function. Reduced sexual function was also associated with greater patient-reported symptoms, reduced motivation, and higher levels of mental fatigue, depressive symptoms, and relationship dissatisfaction.

Additionally, the study found that 67 percent of women with primary Sjögren’s syndrome never discussed their sexual dysfunction with their doctors, the most common reason being the doctor never brought it up.

Jolien van Nimwegen said, “The sexual health of patients with rheumatic diseases is often neglected, as both patients and physicians may find it difficult to address sexual complaints, partly because effective treatment options are not yet available. However, by simply acknowledging and discussing these complaints, rheumatologists can help patients to cope with their sexual problems. If necessary, patients can be referred to a gynecologist or a sexologist.”

“Sexual dysfunction should not be ignored in patients with pSS. Asking about sexual complaints is important, especially as many patients will not bring the subject up themselves,” concluded Jolien van Nimwegen.

Sjögren’s syndrome may affect vaginal dryness and painful intercourse for women

Sjögren’s syndrome affects the glands that produce moisture, often resulting in dry mouth and dry eyes. But vaginal dryness can be common in Sjögren’s syndrome as well, resulting in painful intercourse. Normally, sexual arousal causes the vagina to become lubricated, which reduces friction and allows for a comfortable intercourse. In Sjögren’s syndrome, this lubrication does not occur, increasing friction and thus causing pain.

Furthermore, the anticipation of pain can cause anxiety and less satisfaction, causing women to lose their desire for sex as it is no longer enjoyable.

Taking the time to talk to your gynecologist can help you greatly, as they can recommend lubrications and other options in order for you to enjoy sex once again and reduce the pain that may come along with it. Additionally, you should speak with your partner and be open with them, so they can understand what is going on and be conscious of that. Being open with your doctor and your partner can turn sex into a pleasurable experience once again.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.