Lived Experiences of Sex Life Difficulties in Men and Women with Early RA – The Swedish TIRA Project

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Abstract

Background:

Men and women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience restrictions in everyday life, in spite of the development of new medications. Recent research has described in detail how participation limitations are experienced in everyday life from a patient perspective. However, knowledge of how sex and intimate relationships are affected is still scarce.

Objectives:

The aim of the present study was to explore sex life experiences in relation to sexual function and sexual relationships in men and women with early RA.

Methods:

The study formed part of TIRA-2 (the Swedish acronym for the prospective multicentre early arthritis project). The data collection included 45 interviews with 21 men and 24 women, aged 20–63, which were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The critical incident technique was used to collect data, and content analysis to categorize the results.

Results:

Half the participants stated that RA affected their sex life. The general descriptions formed five categories: sex life and tiredness; sex life and ageing; emotional consequences of impaired sexual function; facilitators of sexual function and sexual relationships; and strain on the sexual relationship.

Conclusions:

Sex life is affected in early RA, in spite of new effective treatment strategies. New strategies of communication, assessment and self-managing interventions concerning the sex lives of patients with RA need to be implemented by a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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