Background Systemic rheumatic diseases like systemic sclerosis (SSc) and idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM) may affect all aspects of life, including sexual health However, no non-pharmacological treatment has been proposed to date.
Objectives This is the pilot project aiming to investigate the effect of an 8-week physical therapy program on sexual function in women with SSc and IIM.
Methods In total, 12 women with SSc and 4 women with IIM, who fulfilled the ACR/EULAR 2013 criteria for SSc and the Bohan/Peter 1975 criteria for DM/PM, respectively, were enrolled in the study. Based on patient’s possibilities and willingness to participate in the program, they were divided into an intervention group (IG) (6 SSc/2 IIM, mean age: 46.8±3.1 years) and a control group (CG) (6 SSc/2 IIM, mean age: 46.3±3.0 years). The IG underwent the 8-week tailored physiotherapy program, including the pelvic floor exercise and physiotherapy of musculoskeletal problems subjectively limiting the patient’s sexual function (1 hour supervised physiotherapy twice weekly), whereas the control group received no specialized therapy. At weeks 0 and 8, all patients filled in questionnaires assessing sexual function: Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women (BISF-W); sexual quality of life: Sexual Quality of Life-Female (SQoL-F); functional ability: Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ); quality of life: Medical Outcomes Short Form-36 (SF-36) and depression: Beck’s Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). At the baseline, patients in IG were assessed by a physician (medical history, mRSS, ESSG activity score, MITAX, MYOACT) and by a physiotherapist (pelvic floor function assessment–PERFECT scheme, MMT-8, Functional Index-II). Normality of data was tested, and inter-group analysis was performed with 2-way ANOVA and intra-group analysis by Friedmann’s test.
Results Compared to observed statistically significant deterioration in CG over the period of weeks 0-8, we found statistically significant improvement in both sexual function questionnaires: FSFI (p=0.043), BISF-W (p=0.040), functional status: HAQ (p=0.018), and quality of life: SF-36 Physical Somponent score (0.050). Only numerical improvement in IG compared to numerical deterioration in CG, which has not reached statistical significance, was observed in SQoL-F, BDI-II, and SF-36 Mental Component Score.
Conclusion Our physiotherapy program not only prevented the natural course of progressive deterioration of functional abilities, but also led to a significant improvement in sexual function and overall quality of life in women with SSc and IIM. Physical therapy might become one of the possible therapeutic treatments for sexual problems in women with SSc and IIM.
Acknowledgements Supported by MHCR 023728, SVV–260523, GAUK-1578119.
Disclosure of Interests None declared
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