Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a significantly increased risk for sexual dysfunction, according to results published in The Journal of Rheumatology.

The data suggest that both clinicians and patients should be aware of the potential role RA has in developing sexual dysfunction.

The researchers performed a systemic search of MEDLINE (PubMed), EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. They included 7 studies (4 cross-sectional and 3 case-control) that assessed sexual function in patients with RA. The studies included at total of 44,745 participants, 6642 of whom had RA.

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After synthesizing the results, the researchers found that RA was significantly associated with an increased risk for sexual dysfunction among female (relative risk [RR], 1.73; 95% CI, 1.36-2.22; P <.001; heterogeneity, 60.3%; P =.028) and male participants (RR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.64-2.43; P <.001).

Outcomes related to the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation revealed that the average rate of sexual dysfunction events in patients with RA was 6.1%, compared with 1.3% in patients without RA, and the overall quality of evidence was judged as low.

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“Given its association with [sexual dysfunction], the assessment of sexual function as well as specific treatments are necessary for patients with RA in clinical practice,” the researchers wrote.

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Zhao S, Li E, Wang J, Luo L, Luo J, Zhao Z. Rheumatoid arthritis and risk of sexual dysfunction: a systemic review and metaanalysis [published online June 1, 2018].  J Rheumatol. doi:10.3899/jrheum.170956