Sexual Health and Dysfunction in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Cross-sectional Single-Center Study

Laila Twisttmann Bay*, Christian Graugaard, Dorthe S. Nielsen, Sören Möller, Torkell Ellingsen, Annamaria Giraldi

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: An increased risk of sexual health problems is seen among patients with chronic illnesses. The background is likely to be multifactorial, but it remains poorly understood. Aim: To investigate the sexual health and functioning of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to examine gender differences, general population comparisons, and possible somatic, psychological, and disease-specific determinants. Methods: A cross-sectional study using a digital questionnaire distributed among 380 patients diagnosed with RA in a Danish university hospital outpatient setting. Main Outcome Measure: A range of patient-reported outcomes were obtained, including scores from the validated rating scale Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire. Furthermore, individual medical record information was collected. Results: A total of 329 patients (250 women and 79 men) were included (age range: 25–73 years; mean age: 57.2 years). The Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire scoring indicated an overall sexual dysfunction in 33.8% of men and 58.1% of women.More than one-third (37.6%) of patients felt that RA had made their sex life more complicated, and 32.4% feared that this might someday be the case. In total, 29.2% patients had experienced sexual problems due to their RA treatment. Of the respondents who experienced RA-related fatigue, 46.5% reported that this impacted negatively on their sexual activity. The risk of one or more sexual health adversities was significantly correlated with female gender, older age, moderate or severe depression, moderate to moderately high loneliness, more than 2 comorbidities, and a fatigue score above 75 out of 100 on a visual analogue scale. Compared to the general population, significantly fewer patients with RA considered their sex life important, and significantly fewer patients appraised their current sex life as good or very good. Moreover, significantly more women with RA (32.1%) than women from the general population (15.7%) had not had any sex life during the past year. A vast majority of patients with RA (93.5% of women and 85.5% of men) had not discussed sexual issues with a health-care professional during the last 5 years. Of all, 32.5% would like health-care professionals to address sexual topics in the consultation occasionally. Conclusion: Sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent in patients with RA, but the problems are not regularly addressed in consultations provided by the rheumatology department. Bay LT, Graugaard C, Nielsen DS, et al. Sexual Health and Dysfunction in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Cross-sectional Single-Center Study. Sex Med 2020;8:615–630.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSexual Medicine
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)615-630
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Chronic Illness
  • Communication
  • Consultations
  • Questionnaires
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Sexuality


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