Alexithymia and Quality of Life in Adult Patients with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Keywords: juvenile idiopathic arthritis, adult age, quality of life, alexithymia


Patients with chronic pain disturb not only quality of life (QL) but also develop difficulties in describing their feelings. Prolonged pain, stress, pathological conditions and related emotions can alter the perceived sensation of pain. The aim of our study was to study the QL and the level of alexithymia in adult patients with different types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Materials and methods. 173 young people aged 18-40 years old were examined: 118 adult patients with different ILAR variants of JIA, 30 patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and 25 healthy young people. The QL was assessed using the Short-Form-36 questionnaire (SF36) with further assessing the level of alexithymia by Toronto alexithymia scale (TAS-20).

Results. The analysis of QL shows that PCS (44.8±9.9) was significantly lower (p=0.001) in patients with JIA than in healthy subjects (55.7±6.9) of the corresponding age and sex, but did not differ from patients with AS (42.3±7.5). Patients with JIA had lower physical (p=0.001), role functioning (p=0.001) and bodily pain (p=0.001) compared with healthy, with no difference from patients with AS. In the distribution of patients with JIA in groups by the level of alexithymia, differences in QL were not revealed by MCS or PCS and scales related with them. The relationship analysis between the alexithymia and QL in patients with JIA shows, that elevated and high levels of alexithymia were related with low levels of MCS (p<0.05), role functioning (p<0.05), mental health (p<0.05). PCS and physical functioning did not affect the level of alexithymia in adult patients with JIA. PCS, role functioning, bodily pain, and general health were the lowest in patients with poly-articular JIA. However patients with oligo-, poly-articular, enthesyte-related JIA had no differences on scales related to PCS. Patients with poly-JIA with elevated and high levels of alexithymia revealed significantly lower social (p<0.05) and role (p<0.05) functioning, mental health (p<0.05) compared to patients without alexithymia. The presence of low bodily pain in alexithymic patients was found. Signs of alexithymia were found in 90% and 85% of adult patients with the oligo-arthritis and enthesyte-related JIA, respectively. The comparison of the QL in patients with oligo-arthritis and enthesitis-related JIA with different levels of the alexithymia shows no significant differences.

Conclusions. 85.2% of adult patients with different variants of JIA have elevated and high levels of alexithymia. Adult patients with JIA have lower physical functioning than healthy individuals of the same age and sex, although they do not differ from the control group and AS group on psychological functioning and related vitality, social and role functioning, and mental health. The presence of alexithymia is related with a low level of psychological functioning, role functioning, mental health. However, physical functioning did not affect the level of alexithymia in adult patients with JIA. Patients with poly-JIA have the lowest physical, role function, bodily pain and general health, but according to the psychological functioning there were no differences between different variants of JIA in adulthood. Patients with poly-JIA with elevated and high levels of alexithymia have significantly lower social (p<0.05), role (p<0.05) functioning and mental health (p<0.05) compared to patients without signs of alexithymia.


Author Biography

Marta Dzhus, O. Bohomolets National University
Department of internal Medicine 2, docent


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Original Research