Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Background Vitiligo is a pigmentary disorder affecting at least 1% of the total population. Although the disease does not produce direct physical impairment, it may considerably influence the psychological well-being of the patients. It has been suggested that patients suffer from low self-esteem, poor body image and a poor quality of life. The majority of the studies on the psychosocial impact of vitiligo were conducted in the U.S.A. and England.Objectives This study aims to quantify the burden of vitiligo by estimating health-related quality of life in the Dutch-speaking Belgian population (Flanders). This is compared with the level of disability caused by psoriasis in a similarly recruited population. It is also our purpose to detect those at risk of experiencing a poor quality of life and to identify variables that might predict this impairment.Patients and methods Patients with vitiligo (n = 119) and 162 patients with psoriasis were included in a postal survey. In order to obtain a patient-based measurement of quality of life we used the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI), a widely validated questionnaire that is easy to use and allows comparison between several skin disorders. Other survey questions were related to demographic data and disease-related characteristics.Results We obtained excellent response rates in both patient groups. The overall mean DLQI score for vitiligo (4·95) was lower than that for psoriasis (6·26) (P = 0·01). Patients with vitiligo experienced significantly less impairment of life quality from the symptoms and treatment of the disease (P 〈 0·001). The highest individual mean scores in vitiligo were found for Q2 (feelings), Q4 (clothing), Q5 (social and leisure activities) and Q3 (daily routine). The interaction of disease and sex on the DLQI score was highly significant (P = 0·001). While men with vitiligo scored significantly lower than men with psoriasis (P 〈 0·001), we found a comparable overall DLQI score for women in these disease groups. The number of consultations (P = 0·005) and severity of the disease (P 〈 0·001) were independently related to the DLQI.Conclusions Our study quantifies the burden on the quality of life caused by vitiligo and indicates specific areas of patients' lives which are most affected by the disease. Sex, number of consultations and subjective disease severity independently predict the quality of life. The quality of life impairment in women affected with vitiligo equals the impairment caused by psoriasis in our study population. These results should awake the interest of physicians in this ‘cosmetic’ disease, since appropriate treatment is likely to improve the quality of life of vitiligo patients.
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