A study of sexual relationships and sexual funcation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and partners of people with RA

Grundy, Gillian (2008) A study of sexual relationships and sexual funcation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and partners of people with RA. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory joint disease that impacts on all aspects of peoples' lives, including their sexual relationship. Healthcare professionals appear reluctant to address this area of patient care. The lack of evidenced based research to identilS' key issues and barriers may be a contributing factor to this reluctance. This project aimed to explore ways in which RA affects the sexual relationships and sexual function of patients and partners of people with RA,
and to investigated levels of and barriers to communication between couples and with healthcare professionals.
A mixed method approach was adopted comprising of semi-structured interviews and validated questionnaires. Semi structured interviews were used to collect detailed participant led data and questionnaires were used to collect demographic and relationship data, disability was assessed in the patient group. M interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) was used to analyse the qualitative data with the aid of ATLAS-ti while questionnaire data was analysed using descriptive statistics (SPSS). For the majority of participants, RA had a negative impact on their sexual relationships. Five superordinate themes emerged from analysis and synthesis
of the data sets.
1. Getting to know a changing body.
2. Am I still attractive?
3. It's not the be all and end all.
4. No longer swinging from the chandeliers.
5. Learning new ways of living and loving.
The meaning of these superordinate themes was developed thrther through the creation of the ASBLA model. Adjustment was central to 'Getting to know a changing body', self-image was explored through 'Am I still attractive', maintaining balance was essential to 'It's not the be all and end all. Limitation was the main element of 'No longer swinging from the chandeliers' while 'Learning new ways of living and loving required acceptance.
Four key factors were identified as having the potential to mediate the effects of RA on sexual relationships, knowledge, understanding, communication and commitment. Communication between patients, partners and healthcare professionals was limited. Reasons for ineffective dialogue varied.

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