Sexual activity is an important dimension of the quality of life of a person (Prins et al 2006). However, sexual activity can be affected by both physical and psychosocial problems (Prins et al 2006). It is these problems that affect sexual activity that can be widely observed in the rheumatology population, peoples with AS, Fibromyalgia and RA.
The literature often examines the presence of sexual dysfunction in these populations. This can be defined as:‘the inability to complete the sexual act because of the reduction of sexual drive, orgasm or arousal’ (Pirildar et al 2004).Other studies may just mention difficulties with sexual activity which may encompass other areas outside the mentioned definition.Despite sexual difficulties having an effect on a person’s quality of life, there is limited research in the area of sexual activity in AS and in other chronic rheumatic conditions such as Fibromyalgia.
However, some evidence does exist. Orellana et al in 2008 examined the sexual dysfunction in a range of fibromyalgia patients. All of the participants in this study were women as Fibromyalgia affects predominately the female population (Orellana et al 2008). This study was interesting as it compared Fibromyalgia patients (n=31) to patient’s with RA (n=26) as well as a healthy matched control group (n=20).The main outcome measure for sexual activity used by the study by Orellana et al (2008) was the Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire (CSFQ).
What about AS?
Although both conditions are quite different, similarities are seen between an existence of sexual difficulties in the AS population as well as in the Fibromyalgia population. It is mostly the physical limitations that affect sexual activity for patients with AS but similarly to Fibromyalgia, depression and emotional status are linked to sexual disturbances (Ostensen 2004).
Some studies have also reported no sexual dysfunction in patients with AS, however these studies failed to look at depression and mobility limitation, both of which have been previously correlated with sexual dysfunction in AS (Gallinaro et al 2012).Sexual dysfunction can greatly affect quality of life as already mentioned and can have detrimental effects on relationships and marriage. This is to be discussed in coming sections.