October 12, 2009
According a survey of American women by pharmaceutical company UCB, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can have significant emotional and relationship repercussions for women, including divorce and trouble with intimacy. The survey found that nearly 60 percent of women with rheumatoid arthritis felt less confident in their sex life, and over a third reported that intimacy was painful. The study also noted that among divorced women with the disease, 25 percent identified RA as a contributing factor.
"My patients feel that their discomfort is not well-understood by family members and close associates which affects their social relationships significantly," said Roy Fleischmann, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "Many prefer to hide their degree of discomfort from others because they feel it is too difficult to try to explain pain and decreased ability and function to those who do not have these limitations."
The survey was conducted in August 2009 as part of a global initiative assessing the lifestyles of women with RA in seven major industrialized countries. In the US survey, about 300 women aged between 25-65 years with RA for more than six months participated.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes joint pain and swelling, commonly in the hands, wrists and knees. It is three times more common in women than in men and affects about 1 percent of the US population.