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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • sexual health;
  • intimate relationships;
  • sexual functions;
  • rehabilitation

Abstract

Sexual health problems are common for women with Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA. Sexual health is covered in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) by two different fields: sexual function and intimate relationships, which are included in the ICF core sets for RA. Most patients with RA are female, and there are differences concerning sexual health between women and men with RA.

The aim of this study was to explore the literature concerning the effects of RA on the sexual health of female patients, and also recommend solutions to improve the sexual health of women with RA.

Sexual health problems can occur before, during and after sexual activities, and can affect women's sexual health in different perspectives. The investigated areas concerning female RA-patients and sexual are general sexual problems, sexual satisfaction, sexual desire, sexual performance, and sexual functioning. RA affects sexual health as a result of pain, reduced joint mobility, fatigue, depression and body image alterations. The investigated material provides few solutions to sexual health problems of female RA-patients. The most commonly mentioned solution is increased information and communication between health professionals and patients. Some of the studies recommend physiotherapy. Further research is needed to understand which types of intervention can help women with RA to improve their sexual health. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.