Purpose. This study examined the relationship between functional disability and sexual satisfaction for both rheumatic disease patients and their spouses and compared their levels of sexual satisfaction to those of healthy comparison couples.
Methods. One hundred thirteen rheumatic disease couples and 37 comparison couples completed mailed questionnaires. Rheumatologists rated American College of Rheumatology functional classification.
Results. Greater functional disability was related to greater sexual dissatisfaction for patients and spouses. Rheumatic disease and comparison couples did not differ in sexual dissatisfaction. Women reported greater sexual dissatisfaction than men among patients, spouses, and comparison couples.
Conclusions. Couples coping with rheumatic disease are able to maintain satisfying sexual relationships. However, when patients are more disabled, sexual dissatisfaction is greater among both patients and spouses. Health providers must be sensitive to issues of sexuality and be prepared to address these concerns among both patients and their partners. Men and women may have different concerns regarding sexuality.