Although prior research indicates that patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) experience worse health-related quality of life (HRQOL) when compared with the general population, data are lacking on how HRQOL among this population compares with that of patients with other systemic autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and Sjogren’s syndrome (SjS). Thus, for a study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, Eun Hye Park, MD, and colleagues compared reported HRQOL in patients with SSc with that of patients with these other autoimmune diseases and healthy subjects, while also assessing clinical factors associated with impaired HRQOL in patients with SSc.

The researchers captured HRQOL using the Short Form health survey (SF-36), the Short Form Six-Dimensional health index (SF-6D), and the EuroQol Five-Dimensional descriptive system (EQ-5D). An ANCOVA test was used to compare the SF-36, SF-6D, and EQ-5D values between study subjects with adjustments for age, gender, disease duration, comorbidities, and disease activity status.

Results were not surprising “Patients with SSc have poorer HRQOL than both healthy controls and patients with RA or SLE, and specifically, worse perceptions of their general and mental health,” explains Dr. Park. “The extent of skin involvement was an important factor associated with reduced physical and mental HRQoL in patients with SSc; lower BMI, prolonged disease duration, having diffuse cutaneous SSc, and the presence of gastrointestinal and pulmonary involvement were associated with poorer physical component summary scores.”

According to Dr. Park, the study findings suggest that “rheumatologists should pay attention to the HRQoL and psychological status of patients with SSc and provide appropriate psychological support when treating this patient population. Affected patients experience poor survival owing to derangements in the function of various internal organs, including interstitial lung disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension, renal crisis, and gastroesophageal reflux. Early diagnosis and optimal organ-based treatment would ensure better QOL in patients with SSc.”