Women's Experiences of Sexual Health When Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis--An Explorative Qualitative Study

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 Oct 15;11:240. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-11-240.


Background: The ICF core sets for patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) acknowledge sexual function and intimate relationships as important since the patients' sexual health can be affected by the disease. About 36-70% of all RA-patients experience a reduced sexual health, and their perceived problems are directly or indirectly caused by their disease. Physiotherapy is often used as non-pharmacological treatment for RA. Mobility treatment, pain reduction, and physical activities are often included in physiotherapy for patients with RA. The aim of the study was to explore sexual health in relation to physiotherapy in women living with RA.

Method: An explorative qualitative interview study with a phenomenological approach was performed. The study consisted of ten interviews with women with RA. The analysis was performed according to Giorgi.

Results: The main theme that emerged in the material was that the body and the total life situation affected sexual health. Three categories were included in the theme: 1) sexual health - physical and psychological dimensions, 2) Impacts of RA, and 3) Possibilities to increase sexual health - does physiotherapy make a difference?

Conclusions: Sexual health was affected by RA in different ways for the informants. Possibilities to improve sexual health were improved partner communication and physiotherapy. Physiotherapy can play an active role in improving sexual health for patients with RA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology