OBJECTIVE: Qualitative research among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can identify aspects of the disease relevant to clinical research and practice. A phenomenological, mixed-method approach was used to investigate these disease-driven health issues. METHODS: A convenience sample of patients with SLE from Los Angeles County, California was recruited from a private, community-based rheumatology practice for participation in focus groups and interviews. Semistructured discussions explored disease manifestations and impact. A self-administered questionnaire evaluated the occurrence and importance of disease issues previously identified from literature. Patient health issues were identified through convergence using 1) qualitative analysis of focus group transcripts and 2) quantitative analysis of the questionnaire. Patients were also asked about their ability to accurately recall disease experiences. RESULTS: Focus group participants (n = 23) had a mean age of 43 years and a mean disease duration of 8 years; 19 (83%) were women and 14 (61%) were white. The most frequent health issues identified by focus group transcript analysis were pain (83%), fatigue (61%), work or school impairment (48%), skin manifestations (43%), and skin sensitivity (43%). Questionnaire findings were similar: the most frequent health issues were inability to do previous activities (87%), fatigue (87%), pain (87%), and work or school impairment (83%). Most interviewed patients (7 of 10) reported an ability to accurately recall disease issues between 24 hours and 7 days. CONCLUSION: SLE patients reported signs and symptoms that could significantly impact their functioning in daily life. Treatments that substantially improve these disease manifestations would offer considerable benefit to patients, treating physicians, and general society.
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