The impact of primary Sjögren's syndrome on female sexual function

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2015 Jul;54(7):1286-93. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keu522. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Objective: Prevalence of vaginal dryness and dyspareunia is high in women with primary SS (pSS). Our aim was to compare sexual function and sexual distress in women with pSS with healthy controls, as well as to assess parameters that are associated with sexual dysfunction and distress in pSS.

Methods: Forty-six women fulfilling the American-European Consensus Group criteria for pSS [mean age 46.3 years (s.d. 10.5)] and 43 age-matched healthy controls were included. Participants completed self-administered questionnaires, namely the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS), Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), Maudsley Marital Questionnaire (MMQ) and RAND 36-item Health Survey (RAND-36). In addition, the European League Against Rheumatism Sjögren's Syndrome Disease Activity Index (ESSDAI) and Patient Reported Index (ESSPRI) were recorded in patients.

Results: Women with pSS had impaired sexual function compared with healthy controls (median FSFI 20.6 vs 30.3, P < 0.001), as reflected by significantly lower scores in the domains of desire, arousal, orgasm, lubrication and pain. Furthermore, pSS patients experienced more sexual distress (median FSDS 7 vs 4, P < 0.05) and were sexually active less frequently than controls (76% vs 93%, P < 0.05). Sexual dysfunction correlated significantly with patient-reported symptoms of pSS (ESSPRI), symptoms of fatigue (MFI), depressive symptoms (HADS), relationship dissatisfaction (MMQ) and lower mental quality of life (RAND-36), but not with systemic disease activity (ESSDAI).

Conclusion: Women with pSS have impaired sexual function and more sexual distress compared with healthy controls. Sexual function and distress are influenced by vaginal dryness and patient-reported symptoms of pSS as well as psychosocial factors.

Keywords: Female Sexual Distress Scale; Female Sexual Function Index; Sjögren’s syndrome; aetiology; healthy volunteers; sexual distress; sexual dysfunction; vaginal dryness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Dyspareunia / epidemiology
  • Dyspareunia / physiopathology
  • Dyspareunia / psychology
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / complications*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vagina / physiopathology