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J Rheumatol. 2004 Mar;31(3):508-13.

Erectile dysfunction associated with scleroderma: a case-control study of men with scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis.

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  • 1University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



To determine if men with systemic sclerosis (SSc) are at increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) compared to men with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to investigate the temporal relationship of ED related to rheumatologic disease.


Men with SSc identified from the practices of 2 rheumatologists were age matched to men with RA and were sent a standardized, validated questionnaire (SHIM IIEF-5) to assess ED and related factors. The questionnaire also addressed information on the subject's overall health and rheumatic disease status.


The response rate was 50% (48% in SSc and 55% in RA), thus 43 with SSc and 23 with RA were included. The mean age of respondents was 53 yrs +/- 1.34 (SEM), (range 34 to 83). No statistical differences were found for marital status, alcohol or drug use, or past/present smoking. Men with scleroderma weighed less than men with RA (p < 0.004) and were more likely to have Raynaud's phenomenon (p < 0.0001), and to have fewer biological children (2.0 +/- 0.2 vs 2.7 +/- 0.2, p < 0.01). The prevalence of erectile dysfunction was 81% (SSc) and 48% (RA), (relative risk for SSc vs RA: 4.77; 95% CI: 1.55, 14.66; p < 0.005). In subjects who had ED, 78% (both SSc and RA) reported it occurring after disease onset. Men with SSc noted their ED began 2.7 +/- 1.2 (mean +/- SEM) years after their disease was diagnosed, and similarly, men with RA noted their ED began 3.3 +/- 2.2 years after disease diagnosis, p = 0.82. Eighty-six percent of patients with SSc had Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) compared to 19% RA, p < 0.0001. Eighty percent of subjects with RP (SSc + RA) had ED versus 50% of men without RP, p < 0.01. In RA subjects with RP (n = 4), 75% had experienced ED, versus 39% of RA without RP, p = 0.18. Possible confounding factors for ED were examined including smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and steroid use; all except self-reported history of nerve damage (p < 0.0005) and diabetes (p < 0.02) were insignificant for predicting the likelihood of increased ED. Patients with SSc were not more likely than RA to have experienced nerve damage (p = 0.25), or diabetes (p = 0.19).


ED occurs frequently in SSc, is more common than in RA, and occurs on average 3 years after disease onset. RP appears to be associated with ED in both SSc and RA, but is not necessarily an independent risk factor for ED in SSc alone.

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