Impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on systemic lupus erythematosus patients: Results from a multi-center prospective cohort

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Lupus. 2021 Jul 20:9612033211033981. doi: 10.1177/09612033211033981. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

METHODS: Patients with SLE participating in a multi-center longitudinal cohort study in New York and Boston were invited to complete a supplemental web-based questionnaire in the summer of 2020. Participants completed standardized patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures and a combination of Likert scale and open-ended questions exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their health and access to health care. Changes in PROs were evaluated with paired t-tests and frequencies of worsened symptoms were calculated. A thematic qualitative analysis was conducted on free text responses.

RESULTS: Of 97 patients invited, 63 (65%) completed a supplemental questionnaire. Nearly 50% of respondents exhibited increases in anxiety (47.5%) and depression (48.3%) and over 40% scored worse in measures of pain interference, fatigue, and cognitive abilities. Respondents with pre-existing diagnoses of anxiety did not differ from other participants in PRO scores, but were more than three times as likely to report worsened health status. Patients denied difficulties accessing medications (85%) or medical care (84%) and over 50% participated in telehealth visits. Anxiety and increased health risks due to immunosuppression were recurring themes in free text responses.

CONCLUSIONS: SLE patients experienced a significant physical and emotional toll in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Comprehensive patient-centered care, including monitoring and addressing anxiety and health-related quality of life, is critical to improving health outcomes in this population during the ongoing health crisis.

PMID:34284676 | DOI:10.1177/09612033211033981