5 Ways to Boost Your Sex Life with an Autoimmune Disease


Living with an autoimmune disease can severely impact your sexual health and intimacy. However, maintaining a fulfilling sex life is still possible. This article explores five practical tips to help individuals with autoimmune conditions improve their sexual well-being, from communication strategies to exploring alternative forms of intimacy. Whether in a relationship or single, these insights aim to empower you to overcome challenges and reignite a satisfying intimate life.

The Impact of Autoimmune Diseases on Sexual Intimacy

Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), lupus, scleroderma, or Sjogren’s syndrome can significantly impact your sexual life and relationship with your partner. 

According to a 2023 study, more than 60% of women with an autoimmune disease suffer from sexual dysfunction, and many patients suffer in silence.

A 2015 survey showed that 72 percent of patients with low back pain had sex less frequently, and 70 percent found sex less satisfying. Sixty-one percent said their pain made relationships more difficult to maintain.

Chronic pain, joint limitations, sleep deprivation, mood changes, anxiety, depression, headaches, increased skin sensitivity, skin changes, vaginal dryness, and genital tract fibrosis are just some of the challenges that can make intimacy and sex uncomfortable or even painful for people with autoimmune diseases.

For men, autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, RA, lupus, and multiple sclerosis can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) due to nerve or blood vessel damage. Interestingly, 50% of men with ED are at a higher risk of heart attack, potentially due to the ongoing inflammation from autoimmune diseases that lead to atherosclerosis and, consequently, heart disease.

Furthermore, the fatigue, depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation associated with autoimmune diseases can dampen the desire for sexual intimacy. Many patients feel guilty about their partner’s dissatisfaction or lack of understanding, while single patients struggle with their interest in meeting new people due to their symptoms.

The Benefits of Maintaining an Active Sexual Life

While autoimmune diseases can pose challenges to sexual intimacy, studies have shown that maintaining an active sexual life is beneficial for people with arthritis and chronic pain. Sex induces pleasure and increases endorphins and oxytocin in your body, hormones that make you feel good. It also allows you to feel connected with someone during a time when you may be feeling alone.

5 Tips for Sustaining Intimacy with an Autoimmune Disease

Keep Communication Open with Your Partner 

Communicating openly with your partner is crucial when one or both partners have limitations caused by an autoimmune disorder. Explain your physical boundaries and limitations, and let them know how they can provide support, whether through physical touch or understanding. Ask about their needs too, and have open conversations to improve your connection.

Plan Ahead for Intimacy 

Experiment with different times of day when your symptoms are more manageable, and explore different sexual positions to accommodate your pain, stiffness, weakness, or muscle spasms. Planning ahead for intimacy around times when you feel better can increase the chances of a successful and enjoyable experience.

Use Lubricants 

Since vaginal dryness is a common issue with many autoimmune conditions, investing in a good quality lubricant can alleviate discomfort and make sexual encounters more pleasant. Discuss hormone replacement therapy options with your gynecologist if appropriate. Some people, like patients with lupus and positive antiphospholipid antibodies, are not candidates for hormone replacement therapy.

Explore Alternatives to Sexual Intimacy 

Engage in emotional and physical bonding activities like hand-holding, kissing, gentle massage, hugging, and cuddling to boost oxytocin levels and feelings of love. Plan tech-free dates to focus on your partner and increase emotional connection, as intimacy is so much more than just sex.

See a sexual therapist

A trained sex therapist can help address intimacy issues, sexual dysfunction, communication needs, desires, and boundaries. They can provide guidance on sexual positions or acts that accommodate your symptoms and work through anxiety or resentment surrounding sex and intimacy.

You’re Not Alone in This Journey

Living with an autoimmune disease is complicated, but intimacy and sex are still possible. Communicate openly with your partner, explore each other’s needs and wants, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed. You’re not alone in this journey, and maintaining a fulfilling intimate relationship is achievable despite your health struggles.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can autoimmune diseases cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in men? 

Yes, autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis can lead to erectile dysfunction in men due to nerve or blood vessel damage.

Is it safe to have sex during an autoimmune disease flare-up? 

It’s generally safe to have sex during a flare-up, but it’s essential to listen to your body and communicate with your partner. Adjust positions or activities as needed to minimize discomfort or pain.

Can medications for autoimmune diseases affect libido? 

Yes, certain medications used to treat autoimmune diseases, such as glucocorticoids, immunosuppressants, or SSRIs (for depression), can cause a decrease in libido or sexual desire.

Is it necessary to see a sex therapist for intimacy issues related to autoimmune diseases? 

While not always necessary, seeing a sex therapist can be extremely helpful in addressing intimacy issues, sexual dysfunction, communication challenges, and exploring accommodations for your symptoms.

Can hormone replacement therapy help with vaginal dryness? 

Hormone replacement therapy, such as estrogen creams, can help alleviate vaginal dryness in some cases. However, discussing these options with your gynecologist to determine the most appropriate treatment for your situation is essential.

If you’re struggling with an autoimmune disease, don’t hesitate to reach out to Rheumatologist OnCall. Our team of experienced rheumatologists understands the unique challenges you face and can provide personalized guidance and support to help you maintain a fulfilling intimate relationship. Schedule a consultation today and take the first step towards a better life despite your autoimmune condition.


All content shared on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medicine. You should always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment regarding your specific medical needs. We don’t represent that any of the products or services offered through this site are safe, appropriate, or effective for you. We advise you to always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding personal health or medical conditions. If you know or suspect you have a medical problem, contact a qualified healthcare professional immediately. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

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