Objectives: To evaluate the effects of Wegener's granulomatosis (WG) on employment status, work disability, and need for medical care of 60 consecutive WG patients aged < or = 40 years at diagnosis.
Methods: Sixty WG patients (26 male, 34 female) with a median age of 36 years (range 17-48 years) and a median duration of disease of 39 months (range 0-228 months) completed self-administered questionnaires on hospitalization, medical care, and employment status plus the Medical Outcomes Study-Short Form-36 (SF-36) estimating their health-related quality of life.
Results: Thirty-two of the 60 patients reported full- or part-time employment more than 3 years after diagnosis. Only 14 of the 51 patients employed at diagnosis (27%) were currently receiving a permanent work disability pension due to WG. Two additional patients had lost work because of WG. Women who were employed at diagnosis had a nearly 3-fold higher risk of losing their jobs compared with men (P = 0.0006). There were no differences with regard to age at diagnosis, disease duration, disease severity, or education level between employed and unemployed patients. Employed patients had missed a median of 14 workdays (range 0-18 days) due to WG within the past 12 months. More than half of all patients (33 of 60) had been hospitalized during the previous 12 months because of WG. Ninety-three percent of all patients had visited their physician once or more per month, more than half of them at least once per week, regardless of employment status, severity of disease, or type of current medication. Unemployed WG patients experienced significant reductions in social and physical function and in their perceived degree of general health as assessed by the SF-36.
Conclusions: Twenty-seven percent of WG patients younger than age 40 who were employed at diagnosis received permanent work disability within a disease duration of 39 months. Unemployment is followed by a considerable reduction in disease-related quality of life compared with employed patients, independent of severity and extent of disease. Furthermore, because patients were followed closely by an interdisciplinary team, a high rate of hospitalization and frequent visits to physicians resulted.