Background Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are distinguished by their chronic and progressive characteristics; they may lead to premature loss of joint function and constitute major social, economic and health burdens. Rheumatic diseases may affect all aspects of life including patients' sexuality.
Objectives The objective of the study was to evaluate the impact of RA on women's sexuality regarding sexual motivation, activity, and satisfaction and to assess the correlation of disease related physical impairment within sexual functioning.
Methods A group of rheumatologists, a sociologist and a specialist in sexual medicine initiated a substantial survey, including standardised questionnaires. The items asked were assessments of disease activity with the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI) and measurements of illness and medically induced changes in sexual functioning with the Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire-short form (CSFQ-14). Levels of depression were evaluated with the Beck Depression Inventory FastScreen (BDI FastScreen) and to establish disability the Health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) was used. Further questions were concerning demographic and health related data such as comorbidities, medication, alcohol and smoking habits.
Results 319 questionnaires were distributed to RA-patients and 319 to healthy controls (HCOs). 235 questionnaires from patients (73, 7%) and 180 HCO-questionnaires (58, 8%) were sent back.
Women with RA had a significantly lower CSRQ Score than HCOs. 48% of the patients had a total CSFQ score of ≤41, which is defined as an indicator of sexual dysfunction. However, only 14% of the healthy respondents scored similarly.
29.3% of the surveyed patients were in remission, 45.1% in low disease activity, 18.9% in a moderate disease activity and 6.8% in high disease activity. There was no relationship between CDAI and CSFQ.
Age and level of education were the most important demographic parameters connected with sexual dysfunction. There was also a moderate and significant relationship between depression and sexual dysfunction.
A significant correlation between the HAQ index and the level of sexual dysfunction was to be observed.
Conclusions Due to the lack of substantive surveys in this field, we tried to undertake a comprehensive study covering sexual dysfunction in women with RA. The study shows that RA has a significant effect on the sexuality of women, compared to healthy individuals.
Disclosure of Interest R. Puchner Grant/research support from: unrestricted industrial grant Pfizer Austria WI205954, J. Sautner: None declared, J. Gruber: None declared, A. Trenkler: None declared, E. Bragagna: None declared, G. Eberl: None declared, A. Alkin: None declared, H. Pieringer: None declared