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AB1157-HPR Intimate Relationships as Perceived by Patients with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Qualitative Interview Study (The Swedish Tira Study)
  1. G. Ostlund1,
  2. M. Björk2,
  3. E. Valtersson3,
  4. A. Sverker3
  1. 1School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna
  2. 2County Council of Östergötland, Rehabilitation section HMC
  3. 3Rehabilitation section NSC, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden


Background Recent research has described in detail how participation restrictions in relation to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are experienced in everyday life from patients' perspective [1- 3]. However, the knowledge of how intimate relationships are affected is still scarce [4].

Objectives The aim of this study was to analyze RA patients' descriptions of intimate relationships to understand more about if and how it is affected.

Methods This study is part of the Swedish TIRA-project [5]. The data collection includes 60 interviews with 37 women and 23 men, aged 20-63, that were taped and transcribed verbatim. The Critical Incident Technique was used in the data collection [6] and content analysis was used to categorize the results.

Results A preliminary result shows that 17 of 54 patients described that RA affected their intimate relationships. Tiredness and body pain were factors that had an impact according to these patients and for some aging was part of the problem. Adverse reactions to medication was another aspect. Some refrained from having sex and said that closeness and caresses could suffice. Others had worries of being rejected as a partner when lacking enough sexual capacity. Women also described feelings of being less attractive due to RA. Patients reported the importance of having an open conversation with the partner to find solutions to make this important part of life work.

Conclusions A quarter of this sample talked about how RA influenced the intimate relationship this calls for further investigation in research as well as in clinical interventions.


  1. Sverker A, Thyberg I,Östlund G, Valtersson E, Thyberg M (2013). Participation in work in early rheumatoid arthitis: A qualitative interview study intepreted in terms of ICF.Disability & Rehabilitation May (3)ISSN:1464-5165.

  2. Sverker A, Östlund G, Thyberg M, Valtersson E, Björk M, Thyberg, I. Dilemmas of participation in everyday life in early rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative interview study (The Swedish TIRA study). (Submitted)

  3. Östlund G, Björk M, Valtersson E, Thyberg M, Thyberg I, Sverker, A. Emotions experienced by patients in early rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative interview study (The Swedish TIRA study). (Submitted)

  4. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (2013). Emotions, relationships and sexuality.

  5. Björk M, Thyberg M, Rikner K, Balogh I, Gerdle B. (2009). Sick leave before and after diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis: a report from the Swedish TIRA project. J Rheumatol; 36:1170-1179.

  6. Flanagan C (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychol Bull 51: 327-358.

Disclosure of Interest None declared

DOI 10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-eular.2395

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