News Release

People with rheumatic diseases have deteriorated sex lives

Sexual dysfunction should be addressed in the management of RMDs

Peer-Reviewed Publication

European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR)

To date, there have been limited studies on joint diseases and the impact on sex. Furthermore, many lack a control group and do not explore the different areas of sexuality. Dr Carlos ValeraRibera’s group examined the impact of chronic joint diseases on the sexual sphere in a cross-sectional observational study. The aim was to describe the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) compared to the general population.

A questionnaire was used to collect information from 188 patients in four different domains: pleasure, desire, arousal, and orgasm. In total, 48% of people with RA, 30% with PsA, and 6% of the control group had scores that indicated sexual dysfunction. The scores were typically higher in men than women.

The findings demonstrate that people with RA or PA have a deteriorated sexual life when compared to a healthy population – with impact evident across all domains of the sexual sphere. As shown in previous studies, age, gender, perceived health, employment situation, and economic status are related to the risk of suffering from sexual dysfunction. The researchers suggest that these factors must be considered as a holistic part of care, and recommend that the CSFQ-14 questionnaire be used as a tool for the management of sexual health in people with RMDs.

Although it is known that systemic rheumatic diseases such as systemic sclerosis (SSc) and idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM) may affect all aspects of life – including sexual health – no non-pharmacological treatment has been proposed to date. Barbora Heřmánková and colleagues presented an abstract on their study into the effect of an 8-week physical therapy program on sexual health in 16 female patients with SSc and IIM, as compared to a control group with no intervention.

The intervention program included pelvic floor exercise and twice-weekly supervised physiotherapy for musculoskeletal problems that were thought to subjectively limit sexual function.

Compared to the control group, there was a statistically significant improvement in both sexual function, functional status, and quality of life. The authors conclude that their pilot physiotherapy program not only prevented the natural course of progressive deterioration of functional abilities, but also led to a significant improvement in sexual function and overall quality of life in women with SSc and IIM. These findings suggest that physical therapy might be a potential therapeutic option for sexual problems in women with SSc and IIM.

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