The impact of rheumatic diseases on sexual function – Source: Rhematology International, Jan 20, 2009

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Sexuality is a complex aspect of the human being’s life and is more than only the sexual act. Normal sexual functioning consists of sexual activity with transition through the phases from arousal to relaxation with no problems, and with a feeling of pleasure, fulfillment and satisfaction. Rheumatic diseases may affect all aspects of life including sexual functioning.

The reasons for disturbing sexual functioning are multifactorial and comprise disease-related factors as well as therapy. In rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis patients, pain and depression could be the principal factors contributing to sexual dysfunction.

On the other hand, in women with Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis sexual dysfunction is apparently most associated to vaginal discomfort or pain during intercourse.

Finally, sexual dysfunction in patients with fibromyalgia could be principally associated with depression, but the characteristic symptoms of fibromyalgia (generalized pain, stiffness, fatigue and poor sleep) may contribute to the occurrence of sexual dysfunction.

The treatment of sexual dysfunction will depend on the specific patient’s symptoms, however, there are some general recommendations including: exploring different positions, using analgesics drug, heat and muscle relaxants before sexual activity and exploring alternative methods of sexual expression.

This is a systemic review about the impact of several rheumatic diseases on sexual functioning. There are no previous overviews about this topic so far.

Source: Rhematology International, Jan 20, 2009. [E-pub ahead of print] PMID: 19152092, by Tristano AG. Instituto Médico La Floresta, Caracas, Venezuela. [E-mail: mjtristano@cantv.net]

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