Author(s): AbdelNasser AM, Ali EI
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Abstract Previous research has identified two main problems of sexuality in female rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients: difficulties in sexual performance and diminution of sexual desire and satisfaction. This study attempts to determine the clinical and psychological factors significantly contributing to sexual disability and dissatisfaction in female RA patients. Ninety consecutive female RA outpatients were assessed by a gynecologist. After excluding patients who were not sexually active and those with genital tract abnormalities, 52 patients were examined and investigated rheumatologically and given questionnaires assessing sexual performance, desire, and satisfaction, as well as demographic variables, pain, disability, anxiety, and depression. Following a correlation analysis, the contributions of demographic, disease, and psychological variables to sexual disability and dissatisfaction were explored by hierarchical and stepwise regression. Thirty-two patients (62\%) had difficulties in sexual performance including nine patients (17\%) who were totally unable to engage in sexual intercourse because of arthritis. Sexual desire or satisfaction were diminished in 24 patients (46\%) and completely lost in 24 patients (46\%). Sexual disability was not significantly correlated with any psychodemographic variables, but with parameters of disease activity (p<0.001), Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ)-disability (p<0.001), hip (p<0.001) but not knee joint disease, seropositivity (p<0.05), and diminished desire (p<0.05). However, HAQ-disability and hip joint disease were the only independent and significant determinants of sexual disability in the regression model after controlling for the effects of age and disease duration. These variables together explained 64\% of the variance of sexual disability. On the other hand, pain (p<0.001), age (p<0.05), and depression (p<0.05) were the significant determinants in the regression model for sexual dissatisfaction, all together contributing 36\% of its variance. More than 60\% of female RA patients experience variable degrees of sexual disability and diminished sexual desire and satisfaction. Difficulties in sexual performance are related more to overall disability and hip involvement, while diminished desire and satisfaction are influenced more by perceived pain, age, and depression.
This article was published in Clin Rheumatol
and referenced in International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation