A qualitative exploration of internet forum discussions surrounding female sexual function for individuals with Sjögren’s syndrome

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Sexual dysfunction is a common experience for women with the autoimmune rheumatic disease, Sjögren’s syndrome (SS); however, the lived experience of how the disease affects sexual functioning and the sexual environment remains unexplored. This qualitative study explores the conversations pertaining to female sexual function and the sexual environment that individuals with SS have on an internet forum. Qualitative data posted on one publicly accessible, worldwide, internet forum was extracted using an automated web scraping tool. A total of 247,694 posts across 23,382 threads were scraped from the forum in July 2019 and June 2022 (from the United Kingdom). A predetermined and theoretically informed keyword search strategy was used to screen the captured data for content relevant to the study aim. The dataset was cleaned to remove duplication and identifying information and screened for topic relevance. The Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis software tool, ATLAS.ti, was used to facilitate the data analysis process. Thematic analysis was conducted on 1443 female-oriented posts, and four key themes were identified: the symptoms of SS and their impact on the sexual environment; the emotional responses that are commonly evoked in response to sexual difficulties; the strategies that users have implemented to manage sexual problems; and the impact that a partner’s behavior may have on the sexual environment. Together these themes provide an insight into the nature of sexual difficulties for females with SS. Our findings provide novel insights to inform clinical discussions between practitioners and patients whilst further outlining the importance of undertaking qualitative research with this population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0291422
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2023

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