Abstract: Illness uncertainty, partner caregiver burden and support, and relationship satisfaction in fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis patients

Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Feb 6;55(1):86-93 [Epub ahead of print]

Reich JW, Olmsted ME, van Puymbroeck CM.

Arizona State University, Tempe.

OBJECTIVE: Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is characterized by uncertainty in diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. This study assessed the role of uncertainty of illness in relationship satisfaction in patients with FMS and osteoarthritis (OA).

METHODS: A total of 51 patients with FMS responded to self-report instruments assessing their uncertainty about their illness, functional ability, average pain, and relationship satisfaction. Their partners independently reported on their sense of caregiver burden and their supportiveness toward the patients. Thirty-two patients with OA and their partners served as a control group.

RESULTS: Patients’ functional ability and pain were related to partner caregiver burden. Partner caregiver burden was related to lower levels of partner supportiveness for the FMS dyads, but not for the OA dyads.

Relationship satisfaction of patients with FMS was related to their higher levels of uncertainty of illness in interaction with their functional disability and pain and their partners’ supportiveness. Under high levels of uncertainty of illness, low levels of partner supportiveness were related to lower patient relationship satisfaction, whereas low levels of uncertainty of illness were significant interacting variables in the OA sample.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that uncertainty of illness is a prominent feature affecting patients with FMS in their relationships with their partners. Suggestions for additional research to explore the role of uncertainty of illness in social relationships are presented, and the therapeutic implications for patient/partner relationships are explored.

PMID: 16463418 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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