Survey finds lupus patients suffer more than physicians perceive

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., May 10, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As many people in the lupus community prepare to come together in support of World Lupus Day (May 10), a global survey shows that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have difficulty describing their symptoms to their physicians, which leads to a gap in physicians understanding the full impact the illness has on patients' lives.

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The online survey of 905 total global respondents across the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Brazil was conducted by GfK on behalf of GSK in 2014. It included 200 SLE patients, 100 caregivers and 75 physicians in the US.

The findings showed that US patients (n=200) have difficulty describing symptoms to their physician and underreport the impact of lupus on their lives:

  • 60 percent of patients and 63 percent of physicians agree that patients have difficulty describing their symptoms.
  • 77 percent of patients said they only discuss the symptoms that annoy them the most and 83 percent of physicians agreed.
  • 61 percent of patients say they minimize symptoms to their physician.
  • While patients say they experience a large number of lupus symptoms daily, physicians believe patients only experience most symptoms several times a month.

"We know from previous research that people living with lupus do not want to burden their physicians and loved ones and so they often downplay the frequency, severity and impact of their symptoms. This survey shows that there is still more that can be done to give patients the confidence and tools they need to speak up about their lupus and more effectively communicate their support needs," said Sheri Mullen, VP of Immunology and Rare Diseases at GSK.

Severity is the key driver for reporting a majority of symptoms, yet many high severity symptoms are underreported to US physicians:

  • Confusion, headache and decrease in sexual drive are reported as severe symptoms by patients, but are listed by physicians as being in the top 10 most underreported symptoms.
  • Physicians are less likely to view a number of symptoms as severe including glaucoma, osteoporosis, decrease in sexual drive and dry eyes, while patients' experiences highlight them as severe.

In the US, patients under-reported the negative impact of lupus on work to physicians when compared to patient and caregivers' actual experiences:

  • Nearly two-thirds of patients and caregivers (61 percent) agree that lupus negatively impacted patients' career progression. In contrast, physicians only see one-quarter (25 percent) of patients reporting an impact on their career progression.
  • Nearly three-quarters of patients (75 percent) and caregivers (72 percent) agree that lupus is a financial burden, yet physicians say about one-third of their patients (34 percent) report this effect to them.
  • 62 percent of patients report taking sick days due to their lupus compared to 34 percent of physicians who believe this is true of their patients.

In the US, caregivers' perceptions of the impact of lupus on patients' self-esteem and social interactions is lower than what is reported by patients and physicians:

  • 31 percent of caregivers reported that lupus affected patients' self-esteem and confidence, compared to 40 percent of patients and 45 percent of physicians.
  • Only about one in five caregivers (22 percent) reported that lupus affected patients' social interactions, compared to one-third of patients and physicians (33 percent).

In the US, patients feel supported by physicians and caregivers. However, the majority of patients surveyed agreed that family and friends think they can do more than they actually can:

  • 72 percent of patients agreed that their family and friends overestimated what they can do.
  • About three-quarters of physicians (76 percent) believe their patients have difficulty communicating their support needs to others.

Communication between US patients, caregivers and physicians is essential to treating lupus, yet there is also a discrepancy in how often patients and physicians recall interacting with each other.

  • 83 percent of physicians report seeing patients every two to three months compared to only 63 percent of patients and 68 percent of caregivers reporting this frequency of consultations.

In the US, patients, their doctors and caregivers agreed on the need for more resources and a stronger, more connected lupus community. Everyone in the lupus community desires improvements in self-management of lupus and its symptoms and improved communications with their primary physician. Patients also see conversations with physicians as the second most used resource. Online education materials are the top resource used by patients and caregivers.

About the Global SLE Survey
The survey was conducted by GfK in 2014 among 905 total global respondents across the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Brazil through 25 minute interviews. Globally it involved 350 people who self-reported that they had received a diagnosis of lupus, 250 caregivers who care for a sufferer of SLE and 305 physicians directly involved in diagnosing and treating SLE. Respondents in the US lupus community included 200 people who self-reported that they had received a diagnosis of lupus, 100 caregivers who care for a sufferer of SLE and 75 physicians directly involved in diagnosing and treating SLE. Due to the small sample size, the findings may not be representative of all patients with SLE nor all physicians who treat patients with SLE. The survey was funded and developed by GSK.

About Lupus
Estimates indicate that 166,000 to 322,000 Americans have SLE. Physical fatigue as well as brain, muscle and bones symptoms are the most experienced by patients surveyed; however, lupus can affect almost every part of the body and can cause extreme fatigue, painful and swollen joints, unexplained fever, and skin rash. It also can lead to kidney failure, heart and lung inflammation, central nervous system abnormalities, inflammation of the blood vessels and blood disorders. All these symptoms can flare unpredictably and often are invisible to others.

People with lupus and those who care for them can visit for online support, information and inspiration. For additional information on lupus, visit the Lupus Foundation of America at, the Lupus Research Institute at, and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at Except for, the websites listed are external to GSK. GSK does not have control over the content of the information provided on these websites and therefore do not warrant their accuracy or completeness.

About GfK
GfK is the trusted source of relevant market and consumer information. More than 13,000 market research experts combine their passion with GfK's long-standing data science experience allowing GfK to deliver vital global insights matched with local market intelligence from more than 100 countries.

GSK – one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information please visit

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