According to a recent study published in the Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition), the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women with Rheumatoid Arthritis is higher than that reported in literature on healthy women.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and progressive condition affecting the synovial membrane of joints that can ultimately lead to bone and cartilage destruction. The disease leads to various degrees of disability and has a profound impact on the economic, social, and psychological aspects of the patient’s life. The two main fields of sexual problems experienced by patients with RA are: difficulty in performing the sexual act (sexual disability) and decreased sex drive, reflected both in sexual desire and in a decreased sexual satisfaction. Sexual incapacity is manifested by problems such as joint pain and fatigue during intercourse, presented by 50–61% of patients with RA. However, no Brazilian data exists on the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women with early RA.
In order to assess this prevalence and to determine the relationship between sexual dysfunction with RA activity and functional disability, in their study entitled “Prevalence of sexual dysfunction among female patients followed in a Brasília Cohort of early rheumatoid arthritis,” Thaís Ferreira Costa from the Service of Rheumatology, Hospital Universitário de Brasilia, Universidade de Brasília, Brasilia in Brazil, and her colleagues assessed a population of 68 women with a diagnosis of RA. The researchers assessed disease activity (DAS 28), functional disability (HAQ) and female sexual function (FSF).
Results revealed that 79,4% reported sexual activity in the last four weeks. The mean score of disease activity was 3.6 ± 1.5 and the mean HAQ was 0.7. The prevalence of sexual dysfunction (FSFI ≤26) was 79.6%. The researchers found no relationship between disease activity and functional disability with the occurrence of sexual dysfunction in the female patients assessed.
Based on the results, the researchers concluded that the prevalence of sexual dysfunction found in this study was higher compared both with the figures published in the literature in healthy women (up to 40%), as those found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (31–76%).
The researchers indicated that given that sexuality is regarded as one of the major determinants of reduced quality of life, questions that address these aspects should be among the parameters that evaluate the course of disease.