Skip to content

Sex, Aging, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is it possible to maintain intimacy and a good sex life through RA and menopause? Yes. Here’s how.
Font Size
A
A
A
By Camille Peri
WebMD Feature

Some women with rheumatoid arthritis sail through menopause without a care while others experience a full menu of menopause symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, weight gain. Menopause can also increase symptoms of RA, such as joint pain and fatigue.

There is actually a slight rise in new diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis in women around the onset of menopause. Experts think this -- and the fact that menopause can aggravate RA symptoms -- are probably related to the body’s drop in estrogen, which is believed to affect RA. That may also be why pregnant women -- who have higher levels of estrogen while they're expecting -- may see their RA symptoms get better for a while.

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Scientists Search For Rheumatoid Arthritis Genes

After a half-dozen pint-sized robots organize genetic material onto plates and feed it into computers, Peter K. Gregersen, MD, painstakingly mines the data, hoping to discover the unique genes that make some people more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Gregersen, head of the Feinstein Institute’s Robert S. Boas Center for Genomics and Human Genetics in Manhasset, N.Y., and his team are edging closer to solving the puzzle. They recently announced the discovery of two new genes that...

Read the Scientists Search For Rheumatoid Arthritis Genes article > >

Whether you've lived with RA for a while or just been diagnosed, menopause can pose new challenges to sex, intimacy, and overall well-being. You may feel that because menopause signals the end of fertility, it also means the end of sex. But women with RA can have a thriving sex life well past menopause. Work closely with your doctor, talk honestly with your partner, and try these strategies to help you move smoothly through this life passage.

RA, Menopause, and Vaginal Dryness

One of the first symptoms of menopause that many women experience is vaginal dryness. And it can be a special problem if you have Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition often seen with RA that includes eye, mouth, and vaginal dryness as well as fatigue and achiness. Vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.

“Your rheumatologist or gynecologist can advise you on various lubricants that might be helpful,” says Linda Russell, MD, assistant attending physician in rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. You may need to try different over-the-counter lubricants or moisturizers to find the right one for you. Staying sexually active also helps reduce vaginal dryness.

Putting Out Hot Flashes

Do certain foods seem to aggravate your RA symptoms? Some women may find that foods trigger their hot flashes, too. You may want to avoid or cut back on spicy foods, alcohol, and hot beverages if you’re having hot flashes.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Four that fight inflammation.
 
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know about these RA myths and facts?
Patients who take the product would get no
This may lead to worsening symptoms.
 
Lucille Ball
Slideshow
Hand bones X-ray
Article
 
prescription pills
Article
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
 
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Slideshow
Woman rubbing shoulder
Slideshow
 
Working out with light weights
Video
arthritis
Article