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The impact of polymyalgia rheumatica on intimate sexual relationships: findings from the PMR Cohort Study

Muller, Sara; Hider, Samantha L; Ranasinghe, Prabath; Helliwell, Toby; Lawton, Sarah A; Protheroe, William; Mallen, Christian D

The impact of polymyalgia rheumatica on intimate sexual relationships: findings from the PMR Cohort Study Thumbnail


Prabath Ranasinghe

William Protheroe


Objectives To determine the impact of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) on intimate and sexual relationships over time. Methods The PMR Cohort study (UKCRN ID16477) is a longitudinal study of patients with incident PMR in English primary care. Participants were sent questions about their PMR symptoms, treatments and overall health, including an item about how their PMR symptoms affected intimate and sexual relationships. The proportion reporting the relevance of intimate and sexual relationships, the effect of PMR on these relationships and the associations with PMR symptoms and general health were explored. Results 652/739 patients (response 90.1%) completed the baseline survey, with 446/576 (78.0%) responding at two years. Mean age of responders was 72.4?years. 62.2% were female. 363/640 (56.7%) participants reported that intimate and sexual relationships were not relevant to them at baseline. 113/277 (40.8%) reported that PMR had a large effect on intimate relationships. This proportion decreased over time in those responding to 12- and 24-month surveys, but continued to be associated with younger age, male gender, worse PMR symptoms, poorer physical function and worse mental health. Conclusion Intimate and sexual relationships are increasingly recognised as important for healthy ageing and health professionals should consider this as part of a holistic approach to the management of PMR. Lay summary What does this mean for patients? Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a condition that affects older people. It causes pain and stiffness in the hips and shoulders, as well as making people feel very tired. It can stop people from doing routine things that they previously did with no problem (e.g. walking upstairs, getting out of a car). We know very little about how PMR affects people’s personal lives. Therefore, we sent a questionnaire to 652 people in England with newly diagnosed PMR. One question asked people whether their PMR affected their “intimate and sexual relationships”. We asked the same question again 1 and 2?years later. Just over half of people said this wasn’t relevant for them. For people where it mattered to them, 4 in 10 said PMR had a large effect on their relationships. Men, people who were younger, those with worse PMR symptoms and worse mental health were more likely to report a negative effect of PMR on their relationships. The proportion of people reporting a problem reduced over time, as people’s PMR symptoms improved. We suggest that doctors should consider people’s intimate and sexual relationships as part of their care for people with PMR.

Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2022
Publication Date Aug 22, 2022
Journal Rheumatology Advances in Practice
Print ISSN 2514-1775
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publisher URL