Sex and Sexuality

Connective tissue disorders and pelvic floor muscle dysfunction: Is there a connection? Part II

By Stephanie Stamas, SPT

Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS) is an autoimmune CTD where the body attacks the moisture producing (exocrine) glands of the body leading to the hallmark signs of dry eyes and/or dry mouth. This is the second most common rheumatic disease and primarily affects women (9:1 ratio). Another common complaint in this population is vaginal dryness, causing dyspareunia is up to 65% of women with SS (5). A study by Mulherin et. al., examined women with chronic dyspareunia, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, chronic joint pain and dry eyes and/or mouth and found that 63% of these women had either a definite or probable diagnosis of SS (6). In all but one of the women, vaginal dryness presented before ocular or oral symptoms.

Connective tissue disorders are difficult to identify and can take years until a correct diagnosis is made. It is therefore important that individuals with a suspected connective tissue disorder are evaluated and treated by a multidisciplinary team with an experienced rheumatologist as the primary care provider. Early diagnosis is especially important with individuals with SS because they have a 20 times increased risk of developing lymphoma than the general population (7). If you suspect that you are dealing with a systemic issue please inform your physical therapist at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy so that you can receive a more focused, comprehensive and effective plan of care.


5. Shiboski SC, Shiboski CH, Criswell LA, et. al. American College of Rheumatology Classification Criteria for Sjogren’s Syndrome: A Data-Driven Expert Consensus Approach in the Sjogren’s International Collaborative Clinical Alliance Cohort. Arthritis Care Res. 2012; 64(4): 475-487

6. Mulherin DM, Sheeran TP, Kumararatne DS, et al. Sjogren’s syndrome in women presenting with chronic dyspareunia. Brit J Obstet Gynecol. 1997; 104:1019-1023.

7. Zintzaras E, Voulgarelis M, Moutsopoulos HM. The risk of lymphoma development in autoimmune diseases: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med 2005; 165:2337–44.

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