What are the solutions to spondyloarthritis and its impact on intimacy?
Published Nov 27, 2023 • By Claudia Lima
Spondyloarthritis is a group of chronic inflammatory diseases that mainly affect the spine and pelvis and can have a significant impact on the daily lives of patients. In addition to physical symptoms such as pain and stiffness, these conditions can also affect more intimate aspects of life, including sex life.
How does spondyloarthritis interact with sex life? What are the solutions for overcoming the challenges and maintaining good quality of life?
Find all the answers in our article!
What is spondylarthritis?
Spondyloarthritis is one of the chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases, also known as rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders, which are either mechanical (osteoarthritis) or inflammatory (arthritis) in origin.
Spondyloarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by immunological disorders. This group of diseases includes ankylosing spondylitis (AS), psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn's disease, palmoplantar pustulosis and SAPHO syndrome.
People with spondyloarthritis may alternately develop one or other of these clinical forms throughout their lives.
These conditions are often associated with joint pain, chronic fatigue and joint stiffness. However, a less talked about, but equally crucial aspect of the daily lives of people with spondyloarthritis is the impact of the disease on their sex life.
Generally speaking, the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in people with chronic illnesses is both more frequent and more fraught with consequences in terms of emotions, relationships and quality of life.
What is the impact of spondylarthritis on patients' sex life?
Spondylarthritis has a significant impact on patients' sex life, due to various reasons, such as:
Pain and joint stiffness
Spondylarthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joints, particularly in the spine and pelvis. This inflammation causes pain and stiffness that can make sexual positions uncomfortable or even painful. This can lead to reduced interest in sexual activity and to deterioration in the quality of sex life.
One of the main symptoms of spondylarthritis is chronic fatigue which can not only reduce sexual desire but also lead to a reduction in stamina during sexual activity.
For the couples concerned, open communication is needed to find solutions that meet the needs of both partners.
Side effects from medication
Some medications used to treat spondylarthritis can have side effects such as vaginal dryness in women, reduced sexual desire, erectile dysfunction or problems with orgasms. Don't hesitate to ask your healthcare professional for advice on the best solutions for your particular situation.
Psychological impact of the disease
Receiving a diagnosis of a chronic illness is a stressful event that affects a person both physically and psychologically.
Living with a chronic illness can generate stress, anxiety and, sometimes, depression which can have a negative impact on libido and sexual satisfaction.
What can spondylarthritis patients do to improve their sex life?
For people with spondyloarthritis and other chronic diseases, their emotional and sexual life can be weakened by physical, psychological and other factors.
Here is some advice on how to maintain a fulfilling emotional and sexual life:
1. Maintain a positive self-image
The sometimes visible effects of the disease may give rise to a negative self-image. It can be difficult to feel desirable, to show yourself to others. In this case you should talk about it and find practical solutions.
You can change the way you look at your own body by focusing on what it can do rather than on its limitations. It is possible to practice self-compassion, to be kind to yourself, and you should not compare yourself to others - everyone's journey is different. And why not practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation? There are many strategies to explore, you just need to find the one(s) that work best for you.
2. Communicate with your partner
Spondylitis sometimes imposes constraints on a couple and can make them feel uncomfortable. The patient's partner may be afraid of hurting the person with the disease during sex, or even of annoying them by raising the issue.
Communication is often the key to unblocking delicate situations. Talking about how you feel about your illness, treatments and sexuality can help remove reservations. It is important to discuss limits, explore new ways of sharing intimacy and seek compromises that promote the well-being of both partners.
3. Benefit from medical and psychological help
Health professionals are on hand to talk about sexuality. Doctors can help improve morale, and relieve pain. If necessary, they can also adjust your treatments.
People with spondyloarthritis can also benefit from the support of a psychologist, sexologist, urologist, etc., to help them manage these aspects of their lives.
The consequences of chronic illnesses on sexuality and, more broadly, on the relationships of those affected are still too often underestimated and inadequately treated.
4. Join patient communities
There are many patient associations and online support groups where you can get advice and practical solutions, or simply hear from others and share experiences. Don't hesitate to contact them, and don't isolate yourself.
Here are some of the communities you can find useful: Spondylitis Association of America , Arthritis Foundation, American Arthritis Foundation, and others. You can also join our patient community here on Carenity.
Spondyloarthritis therefore presents challenges to sex life, but they don't have to be insurmountable. With mutual understanding, open communication and the involvement of healthcare professionals, couples can find ways to maintain a satisfying sex life.
Your emotional and sexual life is a source of balance and well-being. So with ongoing sex education, emotional support and coping strategies, people with spondyloarthritis should be able to lead fulfilling lives.
Share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!
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