Chronic Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus: Depression Burden and Associated Factors

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2019 Jun;20(3):465-475. doi: 10.1007/s40257-019-00429-7.


Objectives: Depression may occur in up to 30% of individuals with cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), many of whom may also have systemic manifestations. Chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CCLE) conditions are less likely to present systemic involvement than acute and subacute conditions but more often cause permanent scarring and dyspigmentation. However, little is known about depression in those who have CCLE confined to the skin (primary CCLE). As African Americans are at high risk for primary CCLE and depression, we aimed to investigate the prevalence of and explore the risk factors for depression in a population-based cohort of predominantly Black patients with primary CCLE.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis of a cohort of individuals with a documented diagnosis of primary CCLE, established in metropolitan Atlanta, GA, USA. Participants were recruited from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) population-based Georgia Lupus Registry, multicenter dermatology clinics, community practices, and self-referrals. The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) was used to measure the primary outcome: depressive symptoms. Stand-alone questions were used to assess sociodemographics and healthcare utilization. Emotional, informational, and instrumental support were measured with PROMIS short forms, interpersonal processes of care with the IPC-29 survey, and skin-related quality of life with the Skindex-29+ tool.

Results: Of 106 patients, 92 (86.8%) were female, 91 (85.8%) were Black, 45 (42.9%) were unemployed or disabled, and 28 (26.4%) reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms. Depression severity was lower in patients who were aged ≥ 60 years, were married, or had graduated from college. Univariate analysis showed that being employed (odds ratio [OR] 0.24; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.10-0.61), insured (OR 0.23; 95% CI 0.09-0.60), reporting higher instrumental, informational, and emotional support (OR 0.75; 95% CI 0.60-0.94; OR 0.62; 95% CI 0.49-0.78; and OR 0.48; 95% CI 0.35-0.65, respectively), visiting a primary care physician in the last year (OR 0.16; 95% CI 0.04-0.61) and reporting better physician-patient interactions (OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.37-0.87) were negatively associated with depression. Patient's perception of staff disrespect (OR 2.30; 95% CI 1.19-4.47) and worse skin-related quality of life (OR 1.04; 95% CI 1.02-1.06) rendered higher risk. In multivariate analysis, only perception of staff disrespect (OR 2.35; 95% CI 1.06-5.17) and lower emotional support (OR 0.48; 95% CI 0.35-0.66) remained associated with depression.

Conclusion: Over one-quarter of a predominantly Black population-based cohort of individuals with primary CCLE reported moderate to severe depression, a rate three to five times higher than described previously in the general population from the same metropolitan Atlanta area. Our findings suggest that, while patient's perception of discrimination in the healthcare setting may play a role as a determinant of depression, social support may be protective. In addition to routine mental health screening and depression treatment, interventions directed at providing emotional support and improving office staff interpersonal interactions may contribute to reduce the risk of depression in patients with CCLE.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Support
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology