Sexual functioning of people with rheumatoid arthritis: a multicenter study

Willy T.M. van Berlo, Harry B.M. van de Wiel, Erik Taal, Johannes J. Rasker, Willibrord C.M. Weijmar Schultz, Martin H. van Rijswijk

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The objective of this study is to compare men and women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to controls regarding sexual motivation, activity, satisfaction, and specific sexual problems, and to determine the correlation of physical aspects of the disease with sexual functioning. Questionnaire for screening sexual dysfunctions (QSD), self-constructed questionnaire on experienced distress with joints during sexual activities, arthritis impact measurements scales 2 (AIMS2), and the modified disease activity score 28 (DAS 28) were the methods used. RA patients were recruited from a registration base in three Dutch hospitals. Controls were age and sex matched healthy volunteers. A completed questionnaire was sent back by 271 patients (response 23%). Forty-seven men and 93 women were clinically examined to obtain the DAS 28. Male patients felt less sexual desire, and female patients masturbated and fantasized less than controls. Differences in satisfaction were not found. Male and female patients did not experience more sexual problems than controls. Among the women, correlations were predominantly found between age and sexual motivation and activities, among the men between physical health and sexual problems. Up to 41% of the men (4–41 depending on the joints), and up to 51% of the women (10–51 depending on the joints) have troubles with several joints during sexual activities. Medications influencing ejaculation in men correlated with distress with orgasm. Conclusions are that patients are less sexually active than controls and a considerable number of both male and female patients have trouble with their joints during sexual activities. However, patients do not differ from controls regarding sexual satisfaction. Physiological changes due to RA are apparently independent from those on psychological level. It is argued that sexual satisfaction also depends on personal and social factors. In men, physical health and disease activity are more related with sexual problems than in women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-38
JournalClinical rheumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • IR-83267
  • METIS-243561


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