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Sex, Aging, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is it possible to maintain intimacy and a good sex life through RA and menopause? Yes. Here’s how.

Putting Out Hot Flashes continued...

Some medications may also trigger hot flashes. Evista (raloxifene), for example, is sometimes prescribed during menopause or postmenopause to prevent or treat osteoporosis. It belongs to a class of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs.

“If a woman is put on a SERM for their bones, it can exacerbate hot flashes,” says Nathan Wei, MD, clinical director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland. If you’re burning up, talk to your doctor about switching to another medication for bone health.

Lowered Sex Drive

Some women feel less interest in sex during or after menopause. That's true for some women even without RA. But living with RA can also stifle your libido. For example, if you take high doses of steroids to control inflammation, it may cause you to gain weight -- which in turn could make you feel less interested in sex.

Worrying about pain during sex can kill desire too. And your partner may hold back from sex out of fear of hurting you.

Not Tonight, Honey. I’ve Got Joint Pain.

Swollen and painful joints can put a damper on having sex, and menopause and aging can increase joint pain and stiffness in some women. “For women who have relatively severe disease, finding a comfortable position for intercourse may be challenging,” says Wei. “In some instances, when pain is especially severe, a woman may not even feel like having intercourse.”

Russell suggests that you and your partner visit your rheumatologist together to discuss changes in intimacy caused by RA and menopause. “It’s important for both people in the relationship to know that just as it may be difficult to, say, vacuum with RA, it can be difficult to have sex,” she says.

If you’ve had a long relationship with your rheumatologist, you’re probably comfortable enough to bring it up. But if you’d rather talk about sex with someone else, “Tell your doctor that you’d like a referral to someone you can talk to about how to handle your disease with respect to your marriage or relationships,” Russell suggests.

Talking to a professional can also open up discussion between you and your partner. Discussing sex openly is critical, experts say. It gives you both a chance to air your fears and feelings, and can make your relationship stronger.

There are also some strategies you can try to make intimacy more pleasurable.

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