Gastrointestinal symptoms and health related quality of life in patients with arthritis

J Rheumatol. 2000 Jun;27(6):1373-8.


Objective: To evaluate the relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and health related quality of life (QOL) in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: A total of 1773 patients with arthritis participating in a longterm outcome study (OA of the hip or knee = 648, RA = 1125) completed mailed surveys that included assessments of GI symptoms and overall GI symptom severity, Short Form-36, the visual analog scale (VAS) for the EuroQol (Health QOL), a VAS global disease severity scale, and measures of disease and psychological status. The overall response rate exceeded 85%.

Results: Dyspepsia (heartburn, bloating, or belching) and upper abdominal/epigastric pain were identified as the most important GI contributors to reduction in QOL, and the simultaneous presence of both these symptoms was associated with lower QOL (54.5) compared to those without symptoms (70.9) on the 0-100 Health QOL scale. Similarly, those in the upper tertile of the global GI severity scale had Health QOL scores of 55.7 compared to 76.4 for those in the lower tertile. These differences in GI symptoms and GI severity, however, were reduced substantially when the effects of functional disability, pain, and depression were adjusted for: 62.3 to 68.6 (p = 0.003) and 63.7 to 70.3 (p<0.001) for the GI symptoms and GI severity scales, respectively.

Conclusion: QOL is significantly impaired among unselected arthritis patients with GI symptoms compared to those without these symptoms. Dyspepsia and upper abdominal/epigastric pain are more strongly related to QOL measures than other GI symptoms, and are common among arthritis patients. It is possible to construct a simple scale of these 2 symptoms or to use the VAS GI severity scale and get a clinically useful idea of the current level of GI distress and alteration of QOL by GI problems. Two components of impairment can be identified, one that is smaller and unrelated to disease or psychological factors, and a second that is larger and includes these factors. Because GI symptoms can alter function, pain, and psychological status, it is likely that the true effect of GI symptoms on QOL is somewhere between the unadjusted and adjusted values cited above.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / psychology
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / complications*
  • Osteoarthritis / psychology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Severity of Illness Index