Image Concerns Tied to Depression in Arthritis, Lupus Patients

Study suggests counseling can minimize fear of deformities, physical limitations

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Concerns about appearance are associated with depression in people with rheumatic arthritis or lupus, an Australian study finds.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause physical deformities, especially of the hands and feet, while lupus can cause skin rashes and lesions and hand deformity.

The study, published in the March issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research, examined 157 patients with lupus, newly-diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis, or chronic rheumatoid arthritis who filled out questionnaires designed to assess the patients' disability, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), psychological distress, and coping strategies.

The results showed that all the patients had increased levels of psychological distress and that the lupus patients' HRQOL was negatively affected. The study also found that 53 percent of lupus patients said they felt unattractive because of their disease, compared with 30 percent of chronic rheumatoid arthritis patients and 34 percent of patients with newly-diagnosed disease.

There was a link between appearance concerns and physical disability and depression in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and between appearance concerns and depression in lupus patients, the researchers said.

"By investigating which factors affect distress, psychological therapies can be improved to target specific areas and minimize the psychological impact of the disease," the study authors wrote.

More information

The American College of Rheumatology offers advice on living well with a rheumatic disease.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Feb. 28, 2007

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