An Innovative Online Qualitative Study to Explore the Symptom Experience of Patients with Primary Sjögren's Syndrome
Rheumatology and Therapy
Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is a complex, heterogenous autoimmune disease; no immunomodulatory drug has demonstrated efficacy, and no current treatments target the underlying cause. This study aimed to explore the disease and treatment experiences of patients with pSS. This qualitative study (208399) comprised moderated online forum discussions and online one-to-one questions conducted in the USA over a 2-week period. Participants were self-reported patients with pSS; physician
... ysician confirmation of diagnosis was sought. Participants described disease and symptom severity and satisfaction with current pSS treatments. Qualitative data analysis was performed using inductive coding analysis via open coding. Fifty-two participants entered the study, of whom 48 provided analysable data. Symptoms were described as highly unpredictable and variable, with fatigue rated as the most severe and burdensome. Participants discussed how their pSS symptoms and the frequent need for regular treatment impacted their daily activities, social life, career and finances. Many participants perceived a poor understanding of pSS amongst physicians, leading to emotional distress and difficulties obtaining a diagnosis. All participants stated that an ideal medication would address the cause of pSS and not just treat symptoms. New insights into patients' perspectives of pSS were generated from online discussion forums, revealing the additional impact of unpredictable symptoms and multiple symptomatic treatments to the high disease burden. Improving physician education of pSS may help to alleviate frustrations and delays associated with diagnosis; the advent of novel effective treatments would be welcomed by patients with pSS.