Osteoarthritis

Inflammatory arthritis inhibits intimacy

Thursday, 11 Apr 2019


Dr Andrew Briggs

People living with inflammatory arthritis are likely to experience higher levels of sexual dysfunction and disruption of their intimate relationships, a systematic review has found.

Arthritis-related factors  such as pain, fatigue, and mobility restrictions contributed to sexual dysfunction and reduced sexual desire in both men and women, according to the review of 55 studies led by researchers at Curtin University, WA.

“Our research found that people with inflammatory arthritis were more likely to experience pain and mobility restrictions during sexual intercourse, as well as psychological impacts such as reduced self-esteem, poor body image perception, and lowered mood, which in turn impacted sexual function,” said lead author Dr Andrew Briggs (PhD), from the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science.

“[Inflammatory arthritis] can also impact on sexual function and intimate relationships, potentially leading to dissatisfied partners, relationship issues and family breakdown,” he said.

Published in Arthritis Care and Research, the review found that for men with inflammatory arthritis, erectile dysfunction had the most significant impact, leading to additional frustration, shock, stress and a sense of emasculation. Negative body image, reduced desire for intercourse and erectile dysfunction all contributed to an altered sense of sexuality across both genders.

Dr Briggs said the research suggested that partners who had a greater understanding of the disease were more likely to try to strengthen the relationship, while those with no understanding created additional fear and tension in the relationship.

“Sexual health and positive relationships are key factors in a person’s general sense of wellbeing, yet these issues are not routinely dealt with in practice. Our data suggest that consideration of the impact of inflammatory arthritis on sexual health and intimacy may be important for the holistic management of people with inflammatory arthritis,” he said.

“Given the sensitive nature of the topic, it might be useful to ensure topics such as sexual health and relationships are components of the management of inflammatory arthritis.”

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