Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is accompanied by sexual dysfunction in one-third of all RA patients, both men and women. The study found that there are a number of issues that affect RA patients, including low libido, painful intercourse, orgasmic dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and non-satisfactory sexual life.
Dr. Pedro Santos-Moreno, lead author, said, “Sexuality is an important dimension of an individual’s personality, and sexual problems can have a seriously detrimental impact on a couple’s relationship. It is, therefore, rather surprising that, up until now, very little quality research on sexual disturbances in RA patients has been published in the literature, bearing in mind how common the problems are.”
Factors associated with rheumatoid arthritis and sexual dysfunction
There are many factors that affect the prevalence and aggravation of sexual problems, but the relationship between sexual dysfunction and RA disease activity has never been statistically significant. On the other hand, there is a connection between not being sexually active and disease activity.
The study examined three types of factors – precipitating, predisposing, and maintenance – to see how they would influence the prevalence and worsening of sexual disturbances in rheumatoid arthritis.
Precipitating factors for sexual dysfunction in women and men with RA included infidelity, insecurity in a sexual role, and biological or physical causes. The range of predisposing factors in women and men were related to image changes, infidelity, anxiety, and loss of attraction.
Factors believed to be responsible for sexual disturbance in RA included biological causes, infidelity, general alteration of a couple’s relationship, partner’s sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety.
The relationship between these factors and disease activity was not found to be statistically significant.
Effects of rheumatoid arthritis on sexual activity
Rheumatoid arthritis may pose some challenges when it comes to sex, but maintaining a healthy sex life while living with RA is very possible. For starters, it’s important to maintain an open conversation with your partner about your needs, feelings, desires, and challenges. Intimacy may have to be changed with different touches, techniques, sexual devices, and new positions to accommodate the condition.
Sexual activity should take place when you are feeling your best throughout the day, which means saving sexual activity for the nighttime may not always be a viable option, as many people feel their worse at this time. Avoid cold temperatures as they can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Lastly, keep a good attitude and remember that the goal of intimacy is the emotional closeness.
Aspects that can affect the sexual expression of a rheumatoid arthritis patient include severity of the disease, levels of fatigue, degree of pain, physical limitations, contribution of movement and touch, self-perception, side effects of medications, and effects of surgery.
Tips to manage sexual function with rheumatoid arthritis
Here’s what you can do to manage sexual function with rheumatoid arthritis:
- Plan ahead for sex – choose times when you know you are feeling your best and most rested.
- Nap before sexual activity.
- Take a warm shower or bath, or use a heating pad to relieve stiffness.
- Time pain medications so they are at peak effect during sex.
- Use massage to help relax muscles and joints.
- Pile up pillows or rolled sheets to offer support.
- Pace yourself to save energy.
By trying out some of these tips, you can improve your sexual function despite living with rheumatoid arthritis.