How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Life
Tips on working and living with RA.
Love and Marriage With Rheumatoid Arthritis
In sickness and in health: old vows take on new reality for couples affected
by RA. Rheumatoid arthritis creates unavoidable stress in any relationship,
experts tell WebMD.
"There will be challenges in the relationship because of pain," says
Yvette Colon, PhD, spokeswoman for the American Pain Foundation. "People
with RA, or any chronic pain condition, can feel self-conscious or damaged.
They might resist emotional intimacy with their partner," adds Colon,
especially during disease flares.
That loss of closeness can take a toll. More than a third of people with RA
feel the condition strains their intimate relationships, surveys show.
Missing out on social activities can mean losing quality time with your
partner. Feeling like "the sick one" can build a dynamic of dependence
or imbalance in the relationship.
Keeping a Relationship Strong Despite RA
Communication is key to coping with RA's impact in a relationship, says
Colon. "Talking to and listening to a partner express needs and concerns
can be scary, but it's necessary to help ease the burden of RA on the
relationship," Colon tells WebMD.
The needs of the partner without RA must be acknowledged, as well.
"Seeing one's partner in pain is emotionally painful," says Colon. Men
may experience even more stress, from their desire to fix the problem.
Sex and Intimacy With RA
Rheumatoid arthritis has no shame at invading the bedroom, either. More than
half of people with RA report limitations in their sex life, usually because of
fatigue and pain.
"A lot of men and women have problems being physically intimate when
their RA is active," says Maura Iversen, DPT, assistant professor of
medicine at Harvard Medical School. "It's sort of a silent epidemic among
people with rheumatoid arthritis, because neither they nor their doctors tend
to bring it up."
Besides the physical symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis can create feelings of
depression and low self-esteem -- simply put, not feeling sexy. And disruption
in a couple's sex life can spill over into other areas of their relationship,
Taking pain medicine before likely intimate encounters, or experimenting
with pillows and different sexual positions, can all help make sex more
enjoyable for both partners despite RA, suggests Iversen. Sitz baths and
relaxation exercises prior to intimacy can also help.
Iversen recommends speaking up if RA is hurting your love life. Talk with
your doctor, or the nurse or physical therapist. Health care professionals are
aware of RA's impact on sex, and can offer helpful suggestions