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How can rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affect my sex life?

Many aspects of rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with your sexuality, including pain, fatigue, depression, and side effects from medication.

When you are in pain or feel exhausted, you may not be up for a rousing round of sexual interaction, but sexual activity that culminates in orgasm prompts the release of endorphins -- your body's natural painkillers. So opt for gentle -- or solo -- sexual activity for feel-good benefits that can last several hours.

You may need to adjust your sexual routine a little, but change can be good. If the sexual positions you are accustomed to are now painful for you, be creative and try something new. You may find it helps to make a date for sex at the time of day when you generally feel best. A warm bath or shower followed by a few minutes of gentle exercise can soothe your joints and muscles and improve your range of motion.

If intercourse is painful for you because of vaginal dryness, over-the-counter lubricants can help. Some are for use just before intercourse, while others, such as Replens or KY Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer, last longer and only need to be used twice a week.

If side effects of medications are causing depression, fatigue, weight gain, or vaginal dryness -- all of which can take their toll on sexuality -- talk to your doctor. Dosing changes may reduce the side effects.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.