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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Feb;172(2 Pt 1):580-7.

Genital tract abnormalities and female sexual function impairment in systemic sclerosis.

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Department of Medicine/Rheumatology, University of California, Los Angeles.



Our purpose was to determine the involvement of the female genital tract and its functional consequences on menstrual and sexual aspects in systemic sclerosis.


Sixty women with systemic sclerosis and 23 age- and disease duration-matched women with either rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus were surveyed with a comprehensive questionnaire addressing problems before and after disease onset. Fourteen systemic sclerosis patients also had gynecologic evaluations.


Vaginal dryness (71%), ulcerations (23%), and dyspareunia (56%) were significantly more frequent in patients with systemic sclerosis after disease onset than before and also in comparison with control subjects. Vaginal tightness and constricted introitus were present in 5 of 60 systemic sclerosis patients. More than half of systemic sclerosis patients reported a decrease in the number (p = 0.04) and intensity (p = 0.02) of orgasms, compared to < 20% of control subjects. The desire and frequency of coitus and the sexual satisfaction index were impaired equally in each group. Skin tightness, reflux-heartburn, and muscle weakness adversely affected sexual relations more in systemic sclerosis than in control subjects. On gynecologic examination 5 of 11 systemic sclerosis patients had small-sized uteri, and 3 of them had early menopause at 29, 38, and 43 years. Seven of 16 (44%) women with systemic sclerosis, compared with 6% of normal women in the United States, attained natural menopause before age 45.


Although impairment in various indexes of sexual function occurs in a number of autoimmune diseases, decreased orgasmic function appears to be limited to systemic sclerosis. Vaginal involvement and other systemic sclerosis-related systemic symptoms adversely influence sexual relations. Menstrual abnormalities, including early menopause, affect many patients. Genital tract involvement occurs in a substantial proportion. Prospective longitudinal studies are warranted.

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