Constitutional Symptoms and Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients with Symptomatic HIV Disease

Published in: The American Journal of Medicine, v. 104, no. 2, Feb. 1998, p. 129-136

by William Cunningham, Martin F. Shapiro, Ron D. Hays, Wilfrid Joseph Dixon, Barbara Visscher, Lance George, Margot K. Ettl, C. Keith Beck

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The purpose of this study was to assess the severity of constitutional symptoms in persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, and their relationship to health-related quality of life. Two hundred five HIV-infected patients with diarrhea, fever, or weight loss were studied at a county hospital and a Veterans Administration hospital in southern California. Consenting subjects were administered a battery that included 11 scales measuring various aspects of health-related quality of life and detailed questions about six constitutional symptoms or symptom complexes (myalgias, exhaustion, anorexia/nausea/vomiting, night sweats, fever, and weight loss) as well as about other manifestations of HIV disease. What the study found was that constitutional symptoms except weight loss were all strongly related to all measures of quality of life. On 0 (worst) to 100 (best) point scales, mean scores ranged from 34 (for individuals having all five symptoms other than weight loss) to 78 (for those with none) for physical function, 43 to 79 for emotional well-being, and 36 to 73 for social function. Adjustment for helper T-lymphocyte counts, duration of illness, and demographic characteristics did not diminish these associations. The presence, number, and severity of constitutional symptoms in HIV disease is strongly related to health-related quality of life in symptomatic HIV-infected individuals. Identifying and treating these very common symptoms has the potential to improve quality of life in these patients.

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