Q: Pain from arthritis is affecting my sex life. Is there anything I can do to fix it?
A: “Doc, I’m having trouble at home. You know...?” Not a great conversation starter in an office visit with a rheumatologist, but it’s common to hear from patients with arthritis about how the condition affects their feelings of sexuality and their sex lives.
Inflammatory arthritis is a group of diseases characterized by inflammation of the joints and tissues, and includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Inflammatory arthritis can cause joints to be tender or painful, and when it hurts to move, sex may feel like the last thing on your mind. Additionally, swollen or misshapen joints or weight gain may make you feel older and less attractive. Often men’s penile blood vessels are affected, causing arousal and erectile dysfunction. For women, offshoot immune disorders like Sjögren’s syndrome can decrease lubrication.
These symptoms can reduce sexual enjoyment. But it’s important to make your sex life a priority as intimate relationships are part of a healthy, high-quality life.
There is no magic bullet to make arthritis complications disappear. But here are some recommendations that can help.