Don't Let Lupus Affect Your Love Life

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects many different body organs, including the skin, joints, muscles, and vital organs. People with lupus experience fatigue, pain, skin lesions, and other symptoms that can directly impact their desire for and ability to have sex. Some of the medications that relieve its symptoms have side effects that cause sexual complications like erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive. Add to that the anxiety, depression, and insomnia that frequently accompany chronic diseases and it's no surprise that sex may be the last thing on a lupus patient's mind.

With a little creativity, patience, and medical planning, however, sex can be an enjoyable and important part of your life. Give these tips a try:

1. Talk about it. Have honest discussions with your partner and physician. Describe the symptoms impacting your sex life. Be as specific as possible. For example, tell your partner you often feel too tired for sex at bedtime or that joint pain makes certain sexual activities too painful. Tell your physician that vaginal dryness makes sex uncomfortable or erectile dysfunction makes intercourse difficult.  Be sensitive but be direct. 

Identify the problems and ask for help finding solutions.

2. Switch medications. Some drugs used to treat lupus can cause decreased libido and other symptoms that challenge a healthy sex drive. Ask your doctor if there are alternate medications or medication schedules that might be "sexier."

3. Treat your pain. If joint or muscle pain is part of your problem, take pain medications (over-the-counter ones like ibuprofen or prescription-strength medications) an hour before retiring to the bedroom.

4. Make sex a priority. Sex is essential for most long-term intimate romantic relationships.  Schedule the time, create the mood and go for it. Most people find that even if they're not in the mood before sex, they're usually in the mood shortly after they get started.

5. Be creative. Explore ways to engage in sexual activity that do not make symptoms worse.  For example, try new positions, different times of day and alternate ways of giving and receiving pleasure like massage, oral sex and simple cuddling.

6. Be patient. Don't push it if you're really not up to having sex but don't give up altogether.  Wait a while and try again when you're feeling less tired, painful or uncomfortable.