Background Over 50% of patients consider RMDs as a disabling illness which has a strong impact on sense of self, self-esteem and on the couple's wellbeing.
Many patients tend to deal with these issues independently, passively accepting them in the belief they are unsolvable.
As it is the task of an association to understand, to analyze and to find solutions to the problems of the people represented, ANMAR carried a survey into this problem on Italian patients.
Objectives to evaluate frequency and importance of interferences on the relationship; to identify the main causes and the most useful tools to overcome the problem
Methods inside a larger surveying program set by ONDA (National Observatory on Women's Health) we elaborate a 24 questions questionnaire about RMDs. For this analysis we mostly considered the answers to 10 questions, regarding how patients perceive their health, sense of self, self-esteem and the disease impact on sexuality.
Results we evaluate answers from 719 patients - 2/3 with RA, 3/4 female – 56 years old in average, still working despite illness and pain and with a RA diagnosis over 10 years old in 50% of cases.
The disease is considered as disabling, has a strong impact on physical and mental wellbeing (50% defines their health “not good” or “fair” and refers many sacrifices in daily life due to illness) and on sense of self ad self-esteem: 50% of patients think that illness made him/her different and it has deeply undermined confidence in himself/herself and his own self-image.
Women will suffer more intensely the effects, appearing most suffering psychologically (they are angrier, they feel changed, they are liking less) and physically (they refer stronger pain, they have a more difficult relationship with the therapy and they are forced to more waivers, in home, children and partner care).
50% of those who have a love life says that their sexuality has suffered from the disease for loss of mobility (66%) or decreased sexual desire (50%); 74% did not share the problem with anyone and of these 66% would not want to do it, because they think it is unnecessary.
Males and females similarly perceive the impact of the disease on the intimacy of couples and equally share the problem with someone (25% for both genders), but choose to approach different figures: women their gynecologist (64%), men their partners (50%).
Men are more closed and resigned: only 16% of those who did not mention it, would like to do it, while the percentage rises up to 28% among women.
Conclusions simple information, support and reassurance regarding the perception of self and the intimacy, but also practical tips and tricks to relieve pain or to facilitate mobility during sex, or simply offering communicative cues that lead us to reflect on the problem without aside it with resignation may be enough not to give up living with serenity the intimacy, in keeping with our body and with the limitations the disease imposes.
Disclosure of Interest None declared