"Concealing the evidence" : the imporatnce of appearance concerns for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • ED Hale
  • Y Norton
  • KMJ Douglas
  • George Kitas


Outwardly visible signs associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can include facial rashes, alopecia and weight gain. We sought to understand the concerns of SLE patients about their appearance and the recognition of this by healthcare professionals. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 10 women aged 26-68 years diagnosed with SLE for one to 12 years. Data were analysed with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA); this seeks to describe and provide understanding of people's experience of a phenomenon by studying in-depth a small number from a relatively homogeneous group (women with SLE in the present study). Analysis revealed three themes concerning appearance issues. Participants described public self-consciousness after the onset of SLE. Cosmetics and clothing were used skilfully to appear 'normal', hide the 'self' and assert control but could increase feelings of difference and isolation. Self-imposed isolation was also described and may relate to depression. The understanding of family, friends, colleagues and healthcare providers was also important. Awareness of the psychosocial concerns of SLE patients with life-changing skin disease may enable multidisciplinary healthcare teams to offer a more sensitive, practical service. The physical and emotional needs of SLE patients need to be ascertained and appropriate educational and psychological services are required.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-540
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2006


  • appearance, systemic lupus erythematosus, self-consciousness, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, qualitative