Arthritis pain can lead to sexual dysfunction and relationship breakdowns, say researchers

DYSFUNCTION: The pain of inflammatory arthritis can cause a couple problems in bed.
DYSFUNCTION: The pain of inflammatory arthritis can cause a couple problems in bed.

INFLAMMATORY arthritis and sex don't mix well, say researchers.

People living with the condition are more likely to experience higher levels of sexual dysfunction in their intimate relationships potentially leading to dissatisfied partners, relationship issues and family breakdown said Andrew Briggs, from the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University.

The research, published in Arthritis Care and Research, analysed 55 published research studies across Europe, America, Asia and Africa to better understand the impact of inflammatory arthritis on both men's and women's intimate relationships.

Professor Briggs said arthritis already affected one in six people in Australia with predictions that will rise to 5.4 million people by 2030.

"Inflammatory arthritis conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause significant pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, as well as other symptoms like fatigue which make daily activities and work very challenging," Professor Briggs said.

"Our recent review identified that they can also impact on sexual function and intimate relationships."

Professor Briggs said the research suggested that partners who had a greater understanding of the disease were more likely to try to strengthen the relationship, while those with no understanding created additional fear and tension in the relationship.

"Further research is needed to determine whether factors such as age, disease duration, and other health-related issues could be linked to reduced sexual function in both men and women living with inflammatory arthritis," Professor Briggs said.

American researchers have also shown that an hour of brisk walking a week can help seniors with knee osteoarthritis stay mobile and maintain their ability to perform daily tasks such as getting dressed, bathing, walking across the room or crossing the street swiftly and safely.

A weekly hour of exercise also lowered the risk of mobility-related disability by 85 per cent and daily living disability by nearly 45 per cent.