Background Scleroderma is related with physical symptoms who affect the patients quality of life. Fatigue is one of the symptoms with worse impact in the quality of life. Painful symptoms like finger ulcers, Raynaud’s phenomenon and joint problems, and physical changes in areas visible on interpersonal contact, such as face and hands - that affect body image - are associated with depressive symptoms. Depression is common in patients with scleroderma, which in turn has a significant negative impact on clinical outcomes and causes significant impairment in social functioning and sexual, significantly decreasing the quality of life.
Objectives This study was a replication of a Canadian study with the aim of describes the psychosocial functioning of patients with scleroderma.
Methods This study involved 696 patients with scleroderma from fifteen European countries and Brazil. The majority were women (N = 609, 89%), with a mean age of 49 years (SD = 14.8) and 43,5% (N=266) had a college degree or had attended college. The instruments used in this study were the Canadian Scleroderma Patient Survey of Health Concerns and Research Priorities and The Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire.
Results The six most common symptoms were identified as: joint pain, fatigue, Raynaud’s phenomenon, muscle aches, skin tightening and difficulty sleeping. Fatigue has been described as the worst symptom with impact on day-to-day lives of participants. There are statistically significant differences in the impact of symptoms according to the type of scleroderma of the patients (F (4.609) = 3.53, p <.01), and patients with systemic and limited scleroderma present higher impact of symptoms than patients with linear scleroderma. There are no a statistically significant effect of the sex of the patients in symptoms impact (t (655) = -1.07, p = .29). There are no statistically significant differences in the impact of symptoms depending on the level of education of the patients (F (8.577) = 1.39, p = .20).
There are statistically significant differences in fatigue according to the type of scleroderma of the patients (F (4.517) = 4.72, p <.01), patients with systemic and limited scleroderma present higher fatigue than patients with linear scleroderma. Patients with linear scleroderma present more perturbation with body image compared with patients with other types of scleroderma (F (4.508) = 04.02, p <.05). There are no statistically significant differences in depression (F (4.476) = .22, p = .93), anxiety (F (4.503) = .69, p = .60) and social phobia (F (4.506) = .99, p = .41) according to the type of scleroderma.
With regard to psychological symptoms, 38% of participants had depression, 25% anxiety and social phobia 30%, with 87% of participants reported concerns about body image because of physical changes caused by scleroderma. Regarding to the ability to work, 72% of participants showed that scleroderma significantly affects their job performance.
About the cause of the appearance of scleroderma, almost a third of the participants attributed the causes to traumatic life events preceding the appearance of the disease.
Conclusions These results highlight the need for psychological support for scleroderma patients.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared