News Forum: The impact of skin disease on the patient's family

GPs with an interest in dermatology review the latest papers of significance from research teams across the world

Basra MKA, Finlay AY. Br J Dermatol 2007;156(5):929-37.

Many studies have looked at the way in which skin disease affects patients' quality of life and considered its impact on relationships, careers and psychological well-being.

This study goes one step further and looks at the impact of skin disease on those people around the patient, including family and partners, an area in which little work has been carried out.

The aim of the study was to identify different aspects of a family member's quality of life (QoL) when somebody has skin disease. This was undertaken by conducting interviews with 50 family members or partners of patients with a wide variety of dermatological conditions (n=21) attending a dermatology outpatients department. Subjects were invited to discuss in detail any ways in which their lives were affected by living with somebody who had skin disease.

The mean age of subjects was 48.1 years (males=19, females=31), with a range from five months to 84 years; 44 per cent were parents and 44 per cent, spouses or partners. Through the interviews, 59 aspects of QoL were identified that were adversely affected by a patient's skin disease.

These were divided into 18 main topic areas, including emotional distress (98 per cent) and burden of care (54 per cent).

In conclusion, there was no difference between male and female subjects regarding the main QoL areas affected, but there was a significant effect on family members in very diverse ways. It also became apparent through the study that family members greatly appreciated being asked how the skin disease affected them. The authors propose the 'greater patient' concept, to describe the immediate close social group affected by a person who has skin disease.

- Dr Nigel Stollery is a GP in Kibworth, Leicestershire, and clinical assistant in dermatology at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

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