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Severe memory impairment substantially reduces employability of persons with systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic autoimmune disease, can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from joint pain and heart and lung problems to depression, seizures, stroke, and cognitive impairment. Severe cognitive impairment among patients with SLE can affect their employability, concludes a new study. These findings underscore the need to assess cognitive function among patients with SLE and to develop strategies to either reverse cognitive impairment or to overcome the obstacles it creates in everyday life, suggest the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers.

They surveyed 832 patients in the UCSF Lupus Outcomes Study about demographics, SLE symptoms and activity, health status, depression, medications, health care use, and employment status. While 54.2 percent of those with intact memory and 40.6 percent of those with mild to moderate impairment were employed, less than one-third (31 percent) of the severely impaired group was employed. Individuals with memory impairment were also 36 percent more likely to report being unable to work, and twice as many of those with severe impairment were more likely to report being unable to work than those with intact memories.

Future studies should help define the specific neurocognitive deficits in patients with SLE that lead to work disability, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13893).

See "Impact of memory impairment on employment status in persons with systemic lupus erythematosus," by Pantelis Panopalis, M.D., Laura Julian, Ph.D., Jinoos Yazdany, M.D., M.P.H., and others, in the December 15, 2007, Arthritis Care & Research 57(8), pp. 1453-1460.

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