Ulrika Jonsson opens up on arthritis pain: 'It affects relationships and intimacy'

Ulrika Jonsson opens up on arthritis. (Getty Images)
Ulrika Jonsson raises awareness that arthritis can affect anyone of any age. (Getty Images)

Ulrika Jonsson has opened up about how her arthritis can cause her agony in the middle of the night, the impact this can have on relationships, and how she deals with it.

The model and presenter, 54, said the medical condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints can affect her "ability to be intimate" and "might not be the sexiest condition".

Nevertheless, Jonsson tries to work with her arthritis rather than against it, and is campaigning to raise awareness about how it can affect anyone.

Ulrika Jonsson attends the World Premiere of 'One Direction: This Is Us' at Empire Leicester Square on August 20, 2013 in London, England.  (UK Press via Getty Images)
Ulrika Jonsson has had arthritis since she was a child. (UK Press via Getty Images)

"I'm not in a relationship – when I was married, I mean sleeping next to someone is not ideal if you're awake or if you're in pain and that's one of the things that I was thinking about in relation to this campaign," she told The Sun.

"It's bound to affect relationships and people around you and your ability to be intimate maybe."

Read more: Ulrika Jonsson shares 'fem-uh-nist' tattoo to mark International Women's Day

The Celebs Go Dating star has teamed up with social venture Arthr, with its recent research revealing that three quarters of people with arthritis find joint pain from the condition disrupts their sleep, and can also impact their sex life. Despite the challenges, Jonsson said she is "pretty active and open about having arthritis in my hips on dates".

"I make a joke about it because I think that's the best way of introducing it but it's certainly not something I would bring to the table on a first date – unless I turn it into something of a joke, it's not really what you want to put on your profile."

Watch: Ulrika Jonsson gets 'friendzoned' by her date on Celebs Go Dating

Jonsson, who has had the condition since childhood, explained, "I've learnt to accept my arthritis because I've had it for so long but also to try not to work against it, to try and accept it and work with it."

She uses humour as a coping mechanism, though this may mask to others what she's really going through. "I do laugh and joke about it, if it takes me a while to get out of a chair, I will say ‘oh, here’s the arthritis again’," she said. "I think maybe people think I’m joking and just taking the mickey but it’s actually real and happening. It’s a huge part of what I am."

Read more: Arthritis sufferers really are in more pain on wet, windy days

Giving the example of when she found herself lying awake at 3am in agony the other night, she said, "this is so painful, it's not every night but I would say I have pain every day, I'm so used to it as if it was a familiar pain".

Speaking from personal experience, she has brought attention to the fact arthritis doesn't discriminate. "When you’re younger you associate arthritis with older people but you can get it at any age," she said. "There are plenty of young people with arthritis, probably not the sexiest condition to have."

In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other, similar conditions of the joints. It can affect people of all ages, including children. In the UK, about 15,000 children and young people are affected by arthritis.

There are many different types, with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) most likely to affect young people.

Read more: Ulrika Jonsson: I've given up looking for the one - I want fun

Young woman with arthritis. (Getty Images)
Arthritis doesn't just affect older people. (Gettty Images)

Other than her relationships, she has described how arthritis can affect her mood and those around her. "Lack of sleep gives you kind of brain fog, you can be moody and snappy. It’s really debilitating."

Jonsson is mum to daughters Bo, 21, Martha, 17, and sons Cameron, 27, and Malcom, 13, from her previous husbands and partners.

"There is not a day in my life that I don’t work around the arthritis in my hips." While she is worried about it deteriorating further, she says she is trying to do "whatever I can to counter, to remain as strong as possible, whether that is pilates and to think of my posture and keep active".

If you think you are affected by arthritis see your GP, or for support call Versus Arthritis' helpline on 0800 5200 520.