Published online Apr 18, 2014. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v5.i2.107
Revised: March 7, 2014
Accepted: March 13, 2014
Published online: April 18, 2014
Sexuality is a complex aspect of the human being’s life and is more than just the sexual act. Normal sexual functioning consists of sexual activity with transition through the phases from arousal to relaxation with no problems, and with a feeling of pleasure, fulfillment and satisfaction. Rheumatic diseases may affect all aspects of life including sexual functioning. The reasons for disturbing sexual functioning are multifactorial and comprise disease-related factors as well as therapy. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by progressive joint destruction resulting from chronic synovial inflammation. It leads to various degrees of disability, and ultimately has a profound impact on the social, economic, psychological, and sexual aspects of the patient’s life. This is a systemic review about the impact of RA on sexual functioning.
Core tip: Sexual functioning is a neglected area of quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that is not routinely addressed by physicians or health professionals. Sexual functioning is also not part of questionnaires frequently used to assess physical function or quality of life. It is therefore important that physicians or any other health professionals in charge of handling these kinds of patients raise the subject of sexuality and discuss it with them. On the other hand, there are not enough studies comparing sexual functioning between RA patients and healthy controls and the impact of the treatments usually used in RA in improving sexual function. Because of the impact of this chronic inflammatory disease on sexual function and because there are not enough overviews about the impact of rheumatoid arthritis on sexual function, this systematic review is intended to cover this important but underestimated problem.