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Lupus, Sex, and Relationships

How lupus can affect your sex life, and what to do about it.

Self-Image Issues continued...

Telling your partner how lupus has changed your self-image may help. Sometimes, it may be as simple as speaking up for your own needs.

Many lupus patients, for example, need ample sleep to function properly, but getting enough rest can interfere with quality time or intimate moments together.

“Finding a man who lives a similar lifestyle and who accepts you and your lupus is the best way to have a happy relationship,” says lupus patient Gia Ricci of New York. “The happiest relationship I had was with a man who happened to need a lot of sleep and who respected my needs.”

Men With Lupus

Lupus is more common in women than in men. But men with lupus can experience many of the same sexual setbacks as women with lupus.

"Male lupus patients may also experience fatigue, pain in general, and pain in joints with sex, all of which may be associated with decreased libido," Jolly says.

In addition, "some blood pressure medications may have an effect on erections in male lupus patients," Jolly says.

"Some lupus medications can affect libido and cause erectile dysfunction; however, the major issues are pain and fatigue. They often find sex more of a task and feel very uncomfortable discussing this with their partners," Rose says.

"For men with lupus, there's a tremendous amount of shame around issues of sex and intimacy... the discomfort of admitting challenges in an area that they are traditionally expected to dominate," Rose says. "I usually coach them [about] opening the lines of communication with their partners and helping them to find strategies to cope more effectively, like having sex at times of day when their pain is lowest, trying different positions to reduce pain, and different ways of being intimate other than intercourse, such as cuddling, massages, oral sex, and various body stimulations that they may derive a sense of pleasure from."

Jolly recommends that men with lupus learn about their disease, and medication side effects. "They should be encouraged to discuss their sexual health with their doctors, so they can be counseled and referred for appropriate care," Jolly says.

Talk About It

Does it seem like your partner is reluctant to initiate sex out of fear of hurting you? Are you reluctant to have intercourse because it's painful? If lupus has changed the way you interact in the bedroom, it's important to talk to your partner as soon as possible.

“The first thing I recommend is a conversation over dinner or a glass of wine, not in the bedroom,” Rose says. “Don't wait until the resentment builds up; talk about the changes now. If you haven't had sex in months because it's painful, problem-solve to come up with things other than penetration to overcome the anxiety you feel about sex.”

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