Versus Arthritis

Most couples – whether they have arthritis or not – go through phases in their relationship when their sex life is less exciting or satisfying than it was. There may be physical reasons for this but emotional factors and stress often play a part. Emotional upsets, work or money worries can all affect the balance of a relationship.

Arthritis can present a number of challenges in a relationship:

  • Pain and fatigue may reduce your enjoyment of sex and other activities and interests that you share with your partner.
  • Arthritis may mean that you can’t always manage the household jobs you usually do, or you may need help with them.
  • If your arthritis affects your work, it may lead to financial worries.
  • Having arthritis may affect your mood and self-esteem.
  • Your partner will be concerned about how the condition is affecting you.

Although your relationship may change because of arthritis, it doesn’t have to be a negative change. Many couples find that they become closer by discussing things openly and that their relationship is stronger as a result. Talk about the changing situation and any challenges that you face so you can arrive at a solution that’s right for both of you.

For example, most people with arthritis prefer to keep as much independence as possible, so a partner taking on the role of carer will need to find the right balance between providing help and support without being overprotective. It can be difficult for a caring partner to recognise that their help isn't always wanted.

Some couples find it difficult at first to talk openly, so you need to create a comfortable, relaxed time to talk. But once open communication has started it can be a great relief for both partners.

Will having sex affect my arthritis?

Sex itself won’t make your arthritis worse. But because moving a joint affected by arthritis can be painful and because sex can be physically demanding, it may cause discomfort, especially if your hips or back are affected

Will arthritis affect my sex life?

There are a number of ways that arthritis can affect your sex life:

  • Arthritis can affect your mood and general well-being which, in turn, can affect your sex drive.
  • Swollen joints can affect your self-confidence and make you feel less attractive.
  • Fatigue associated with arthritis can reduce your sexual desire. Your healthcare team can advise you on ways of managing fatigue and conserving energy – more information is available in our fatigue section.
  • Arthritis sometimes leads to a dry vagina, which may make sex uncomfortable

Will drugs affect my sex life?

Most drugs commonly used to treat arthritis are unlikely to affect your sex life, although steroids can sometimes reduce sexual desire or cause temporary impotence. You should discuss your medications with your doctor if you think they may be affecting you in this way.

Who else can I talk to about sex and arthritis?

Every couple has times when their relationship is less than perfect. Having arthritis can create additional worries. Help is available if you feel that your relationship is changing in a way that you’re unhappy with or if you’re unable to resolve things between you.

Try to discuss problems with someone you feel comfortable with, such as a friend or someone else with arthritis. You can speak to your GP for professional advice or, if you attend a clinic, you may feel more at ease speaking to your nurse specialist or another member of the team.

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