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Falling In Love Is The Best Arthritis Medicine Of All
Falling In Love Is The Best Arthritis Medicine Of All

Here's the good news: People with arthritis who go ahead and have sex, despite the pain in their joints, often report that their joints are pain-free for more than 6 hours afterward. Sexual arousal touches off a cascade of blissful hormonal changes, boosting the production of corticosteriod, a hormone that reduces pain and inflammation in the joints, as well as endorphins, the body's natural opiates. (By some lights, falling in love is the best arthritis medicine of all. Heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard, for instance, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for years before he married a ravishing young woman named Barbara. "For several years after the wedding," he reported later in a book, "I virtually ceased to be a sufferer.")

Okay, now here's the bad news: About half of the Indians who suffer from some form of arthritis also complain that it interferes with their sex lives. In fact, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a severe form of the disease much more likely to affect women than men, have a higher divorce rate than people with most other kinds of chronic disease.

Some women with rheumatoid arthritis sail through menopause without a care while others experience a full menu of menopause symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, weight gain. Menopause can also increase symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint pain and fatigue.

There is actually a slight rise in new diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis in women around the onset of menopause. The fact that menopause can aggravate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are probably related to the bodyís drop in estrogen, which is believed to affect rheumatoid arthritis. That may also be why pregnant women who have higher levels of estrogen while they're expecting may see their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms get better for a while.

Whether you've lived with rheumatoid arthritis for a while or just been diagnosed, menopause can pose new challenges to sex, intimacy, and overall well-being. You may feel that because menopause signals the end of fertility, it also means the end of sex. But women with rheumatoid arthritis can have a thriving sex life well past menopause. Work closely with your doctor, talk honestly with your partner, and try these strategies to help you move smoothly through this life passage.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Menopause, and Vaginal Dryness
One of the first symptoms of menopause that many women experience is vaginal dryness. And it can be a special problem if you have SjŲgrenís syndrome, a condition often seen with rheumatoid arthritis that includes eye, mouth, and vaginal dryness as well as fatigue and achiness. Vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.

Lowered Sex Drive
Some women feel less interest in sex during or after menopause. That's true for some women even without rheumatoid arthritis. But living with rheumatoid arthritis can also stifle your libido. For example, if you take high doses of steroids to control inflammation, it may cause you to gain weight which in turn could make you feel less interested in sex.

Worrying about pain during sex can kill desire too. And your partner may hold back from sex out of fear of hurting you.

Not Tonight, Honey. Iíve Got Joint Pain.
Swollen and painful joints can put a damper on having sex, and menopause and aging can increase joint pain and stiffness in some women. For women who have relatively severe disease, finding a comfortable position for intercourse may be challenging. In some instances, when pain is especially severe, a woman may not even feel like having intercourse.

Talking to a doctor can also open up discussion between you and your partner. Discussing sex openly is critical. It gives you both a chance to air your fears and feelings, and can make your relationship stronger.

You Can Enjoy Sex

Here are some other ways to make sex more painless and pleasurable.
Get ready. An hour beforehand, take whatever pain-relieving medication you're using. Avoid painkilling narcotics or other drugs that have sex-inhibiting side effects. Corticosteroids, for instance, may relieve pain in men, but they also suppress erection.

Loosen up. While you relax and get in the mood, try doing a few gentle range-of-motion exercises to limber up your joints.

Warm up. Take a warm bath or shower in preparation- or better yet, invite your partner to join you. Turn it into a slow, soapy, delicious form of foreplay.

Stay toasty. Try an electric blanket- it may keep your limber while it keeps you warm. Or what about a heated waterbed? Some arthritis sufferers say it makes all the difference.

Donít' forget to touch. Don't forget that physical love doesn't only mean intercourse- there's always kissing, hugging, caressing, stroking, massaging and a thousand other variations on the ecstasy of touch.

Lubricate. Some times women who have arthritis also suffer from Sjogren's syndrome, an unpleasant side effect that causes dryness of the mucous membranes around the eyes, mouth and vagina. It may help to use a germ-free, water-soluble suppository lubricant like K-Y Jelly, Lubrin or Steri-lube, which are available without a prescription in drugstores. (Petroleum jelly products and other oily substances should not be used, because they may harbor germs and cause infection.)

Experiment with times. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis have their most severe symptoms in the morning when they awaken. Symptoms are often lowest in midafternoon and tend to worsen later in the day. Try adjusting your timetable for lovemaking to coincide with the periods during which symptoms are less severe.

Experiment with positions. The usual missionary position may be very uncomfortable if the woman has arthritis in her hip or the man has it in his knee, leg or arm. The Arthritis Foundation puts out a nice little booklet about sex and arthritis called Living and Loving, which (among other things) describes seven positions likely to be more comfortable.

Reducing Fatigue
Menopause can increase fatigue, which you may already be feeling thanks to your rheumatoid arthritis. If thatís the case, the only thing you may want to do in bed is sleep. Menopause can also lead to insomnia, another problem for some women with rheumatoid arthritis.

Other tips: I suggests trying yoga, which may help with sleep, or talking to your doctor about a mild prescription sedative.

Intimacy and Depression
Depression is about twice as common in people who have rheumatoid arthritis as in people who donít. Itís not uncommon to feel depressed by rheumatoid arthritis pain or by not being able to do some things that you used to do.

Menopause can also bring on or increase depression. Some women, with or without rheumatoid arthritis, find that it takes a toll on their self-image, making them feel old, less attractive sexually, and insecure. Often those feelings pass. But if youíre worried about depression or you're having severe menopause symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about antidepressants.

The benefits of antidepressants go beyond relieving sadness and anxiety: They may reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes as well the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. However some antidepressants may reduce your libido, so talk to your doctor if this is a concern.

Get Moving to Get Through Menopause
One of the keys to having a healthy sex life during menopause and beyond is taking care of your overall health. Eating well, keeping your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms under control with medication, and getting enough vitamins and minerals are essential.

Menopause may be a good time to try yoga, if you havenít before. It has shown promise in promoting joint health and emotional well-being, as well as reducing hot flashes.

The many benefits of exercise can also enhance self-image and thatís good for anyoneís sex life.

Sexual communication- letting your partner know what feels good and what doesn't- is so important. Good communication is important in any sexual relationship, of course, but when you've got arthritis hanging over the bed, there's a great potential for hurt feelings.

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