Background: Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a chronic respiratory disease for which there is little psycho-social research and no qualitative studies of individuals living with the condition. A questionnaire-based survey in 2003 found evidence of stigmatisation in some individuals with PCD. Although the questionnaire had face and construct validity, stigmatisation was not cross-validated against interviews. The present study had the twin aims of carrying out a qualitative study of the adult patients living with PCD, and using a structured design to validate the questionnaire measure of stigma.
Methods: Interviews were carried out with six pairs of individuals with PCD, matched for sex, situs, and age, one with a high stigma score in 2003 and the other with a low stigma score. Depth-qualitative interviews were conducted by one author to explore themes surrounding the psycho-social impact of PCD using a grounded theory analysis. The interviewer was blind to the stigma scores of participants, and after the qualitative analysis was completed, the interviewer made an assessment of which member of each pair seemed the more stigmatised, after which the code was broken.
Results: Interviews revealed a number of themes, including other people's knowledge of PCD, the sharing of knowledge about PCD, the concealment of symptoms of PCD, embarrassment at symptoms, changes of behaviour in response to PCD, mistrust of medical care, in particular in relation to problems in diagnosis, a mistrust of general practitioners who were seen as poorly informed, and the importance of expert care at tertiary referral centres. Although stigmatisation as such was rarely mentioned directly by respondents, when the interviewer's judgement on level of stigmatisation was correlated with stigma scores from 2003, it was found that the more stigmatised member had been correctly identified in all six pairs (p = .016).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that some people with PCD feel isolated through mistrust in medicine, and lack of knowledge surrounding PCD. Many responses to PCD can be explained in terms of stigmatisation, and in particular felt stigma. The correlation between questionnaire used several years previously, and the interviewer's judgements of stigmatisation suggest that the stigma questionnaire had both predictive validity and long-term stability. As in other chronic conditions, stigmatisation occurs only in some individuals with PCD, and the present study explores the basis of stigmatisation, and validate the questionnaire as a measure of difference in stigma.