Sexuality is an integral part of being human. It is linked to our quality of life and self-identity. Yet living with the pain, stiffness, fatigue, limited movement, decreased strength, and depression associated with arthritis can reduce a patient’s capacity for sexual expression and enjoyment.
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Explore This IssueSeptember 2007
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While arthritis rarely affects the sexual organs themselves, the disease’s physical effects can have emotional implications that affect sexual relations. A change in appearance, weight gain or loss, or decrease in mobility or energy can affect self-esteem and self-image. The arthritic person may feel less desirable or more fragile. Fear of pain can prompt anxiety that makes it difficult to relax and enjoy sex. Sexual partners may also worry about causing pain to their arthritic partners.
By separating the limitations of pain from sexual self-confidence, people with arthritis can take a more practical approach to the changes brought about by their condition. Patients should plan ahead for sex, be creative, and talk openly with their partners. “Remember, attitude is everything,” says fact sheet author Amye Leong, MBA. “The sexiest part of your body is your mind and how you use it.”
Download a copy of the ACR’s patient education fact sheet on sex and arthritis or other ACR patient education materials at www.rheumatology.org/public/factsheets.