Psoriatic arthritis and intimacy: Tips for a better relationship
A healthy sex life is an essential part of an adult's overall well-being. But if you have psoriatic arthritis, sore skin and achy joints — and concerns about your appearance — may dampen your desire to be intimate.
Don't let the skin and joint symptoms of psoriatic arthritis steal your sex drive or self-esteem. With open communication, trust and proper management of your symptoms, you can set the foundation for a healthy intimate relationship.
Intimacy roadblocks: Pain and perception
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can affect both your body and your mind. This may affect your desire for sex or intimacy in a number of ways.
For example, the condition causes sore scaly flaky skin on many areas of the body, which can be sore to the touch. Painful or itchy patches on the thighs and genitals can make sexual activity painful. As a result, some people with these lesions say they have less sex, or avoid it entirely.
Joint pain associated with psoriatic arthritis may make certain sexual positions uncomfortable.
Living with psoriatic arthritis may cause you to feel depressed, which makes you less interested in sex. And some people with the condition feel self-conscious about their skin's appearance and worry how a partner may react to it.
Let's talk about sex
A positive attitude and open, honest communication with a trusting partner — and a doctor you trust — can help you create a healthy intimate relationship that thrives.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
Feb. 25, 2022
- Tell your doctor about your sex life. You might be embarrassed to discuss sex with your doctor, but don't be. Your sexual health is an important part of your overall well-being. It's appropriate to talk to your doctor about any concerns. Research shows that people with psoriasis have an increased risk for sexual difficulties.
- Check your meds. Many different drugs can affect sex drive or function. Always ask about a treatment's possible side effects, and take your medications as prescribed. Don't use very concentrated coal tar on your genitals, as it can cause irritation.
- Love yourself. Confidence is contagious; psoriatic arthritis is not. A positive body image makes you look and feel more attractive. If you can accept that you have a chronic condition, it's more likely your partner will be able to do so.
- Boost your mood. Living with psoriatic arthritis can make you feel anxious or depressed — and those feelings can decrease your sex drive. Yoga and other relaxing activities can help soothe stress.
- Share information when you're ready. Make a plan to tell your partner about your condition. Some people tell their partner immediately. Others wait until the relationship is more established. Think about what you'd want to know and practice what you'll say. Consider how to handle a negative response.
- Be honest about flares and feelings. Explain to your partner how your condition impacts your everyday life. For example, let your partner know that during a psoriatic arthritis flare you may be less interested in sex, or you may need to make some changes to make intimate activities more comfortable. Together you can discover new ways to be intimate and stay connected.
See more In-depth
- Molina-Levya A, et al. Sexual dysfunction in psoriasis: A systematic review. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2015;29:649.
- Husni ME, et al. The psychosocial burden of psoriatic arthritis. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2017;47:351.
- Genital psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/specific-locations/genitals. Accessed Dec. 22, 2018.
- Talking to others about your disease. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/talking-others-about-your-disease. Accessed Dec. 21, 2018.
- Psoriasis and intimacy. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/living-well/psoriasis-and-intimacy. Accessed March 19, 2019.
- 5 dating tips for singles with psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/blog/5-psoriasis-dating-tips. Accessed March 19, 2019.
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- Molina-Leyva A, et al. Association between psoriasis and sexual and erectile dysfunction in epidemiologic studies: A systemic review. JAMA Dermatology. In press. Accessed March 19, 2019.