Objectives: To examine the effect of disease activity and damage on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Consecutive SLE patients and matched controls were recruited for a study of HRQoL using the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 (SF-36). SLE activity and damage was assessed by the Safety of Oestrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment SLE Disease Activity Index (SELENA-SLEDAI) and the American College of Rheumatology/Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (ACR/SLICC) Damage Index (SDI), respectively. Patients were prospectively followed for repeat HRQoL assessment at 2 years. The effects of cumulative disease activity and new damage on changes in SF-36 scores were evaluated.
Results: One hundred and fifty-five patients were studied (94% women; age 37.8+/-11.3 years; SLE duration 7.2+/-5.4 years). Fifty (32%) patients had active disease and 75 (48%) had organ damage at baseline. Compared with age- and gender-matched controls, SLE patients had lower SF-36 scores, and the difference remained significant after adjustment for income and education level. SF-36 scores in SLE patients correlated inversely with SDI but not with SELENA-SLEDAI scores. After 2 years, there was a significant drop in the mental component score of the SF-36. Regression analysis revealed that new damage was the only determinant for a reduction in SF-36 scores. Patients with higher cumulative disease activity had a greater drop in bodily pain and general health subscores.
Conclusions: Impaired HRQoL is more common in SLE patients than controls, regardless of age, sex, education and poverty. Pre-existing organ damage is associated with poorer HRQoL and new damage predicts a further decline in HRQoL. Persistent disease activity is associated with deterioration in certain domains of the SF-36.