It is very important to share these concerns with your doctor(s) and to find ways to compensate for the effect of illness on intimate relationships. Healthy partners often interpret decreased sexual desire or abilities as diminished love and affection. This is a great time to get back to the basics, like saying "I love you," playing romantic music, and writing notes of affection. See Related Books for ideas on how to promote discussions and keep the intimacy in your relationship.
Intimacy and Scleroderma
Maintaining Intimacy. When you are in pain, the last thing you probably want to do is be intimate with your partner. But, it is important to remain close to your loved one. A healthy intimate relationship can positively affect all aspects of your life. WebMD.
Chronic illness and sexuality. In a life restricted by illness, sex can be a powerful source of comfort, pleasure and intimacy, and an affirmation of gender when other gender roles have been stripped away. For patients with chronic illness and their partners, a satisfying sex life is one way of feeling normal when so much else about their lives has changed. The Medical Journal of Australia. MJA 2003; 179 (5): 263-266.
Erectile dysfunction in systemic sclerosis. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is observed in up to 81% of men with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and therefore should be counselled as a common complaint in this disorder. Walker UA. Ann Rheum Dis. 2009 Jul;68(7):1083-5. (PubMed).
Sexual Dysfunction among Women with Connective Tissue Disease. The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), consisting of six domains was used to assess the multidimensional nature of female sexual dysfunction among women with scleroderma. Our results show a high prevalence of sexual dysfunction among female scleroderma patients compared to a healthy control population. Erica Anderson (IngentaConnect) Current Rheumatology Reviews, Vol 5, No 2, May 2009, pp. 126-132(7).
Medications and Sexuality
Stem cell therapy takes a toll on sex lives. A long-term study showed that sexual dysfunction is a major problem that does not fully subside after a type of stem cell therapy called hematopoietic cell transplantation, or HCT. This is true in both men and women. Reuters UK. 09/28/07.
Vaginal Dryness and Sjogren's Syndrome
Vaginal Lubrication in Women with Scleroderma and Sjogren's Syndrome. Sexual difficulties are often experienced by women with scleroderma, particularly those with Sjogren's syndrome. S. Chris Saad, Ph.D, J.E. Pietrzykowski, Sheila S. Lewis, B.S., Arlene M. Stepien, M.S.N., R.N.C., Virginia Anne Latham, R.N., B.S., Shelley L. Ensz, Carol Wetherell, and Andrew E. Behrendt, Ph.D. Expired link. Sexuality and Disability, Vol. 17, No. 2, ISSN 0146-1044, Kluwer Academic, Summer 1999. (Also see: Sjogren's, and Shelley Ensz)
It is very important to consult your medical team if you are contemplating a scleroderma pregnancy, since medications may need to be adjusted beforehand, and specific risk issues can be addressed.
Many systemic scleroderma patients are able to successfully bear children, however it is always considered a "high risk" pregnancy and extra monitoring and precautions are necessary, both before and during pregnancy.
Common sense must prevail, of course. Patients with rapid onset or severe internal organ involvement may need to postpone pregnancy until the symptoms abate or toxic treatments are completed. Depending on the situation, a few people may still be advised to forego pregnancy plans altogether, or to select another route to parenthood (such as adoption or surrogate parenthood).
For more information and research on Pregnancy and Sclerderma, Autoimmunity and Pregnancy, Medications, and Male Infertility, see our ISN page : Pregnancy and Systemic Scleroderma
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