Quality of life of cutaneous leishmaniasis suspected patients in the Ecuadorian Pacific and Amazon regions: a cross sectional study
Background: Yearly, up to 1 million patients worldwide suffer from cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL). In Ecuador, CL affects an estimated 5000 patients annually. CL leads to reduced Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) as a result of stigma in the Asian and Mediterranean contexts, but research is lacking for Ecuador. The objective of this study was to explore the influence of CL suspected lesions on the quality of life of patients in the Pacific and Amazon regions.
Methods: Patients for this study were included in the Amazonian Napo, Pastaza, and Morona Santiago provinces and the Pacific region of the Pichincha province. Participating centers offered free of charge CL treatment. All patients suspected of CL and referred for a cutaneous smear slide microscopy examination were eligible. This study applied the Skindex-29 questionnaire, a generic tool to measure HRQL in patients with skin diseases. All statistical analysis was done with SPSS Statistics version 28.
Results: The skindex-29 questionnaire was completed adequately by 279 patients who were included in this study. All patient groups from the Amazon scored significantly (P < 0.01) higher (indicating worse HRQL) on all the dimensions of the Skindex-29 questionnaire than Mestizo patients from the Pacific region. The percentage of patients with health seeking delay of less than a month was significantly (P < 0.01) lower in the Amazon region (38%) than in the Pacific (66%).
Conclusions: The present study revealed that the influence of suspected CL lesions on the HRQL of patients in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Pacific depends on the geographic region more than on patient characteristics such as gender, age, number of lesions, lesion type, location of lesions, health seeking delay, or posterior confirmation of the Leishmania parasite. The health seeking delay in the Amazon might result from a lack of health infrastructure or related stigma. Together, the impaired HRQL and prolonged health seeking delay in the Amazon lead to prolonged suffering and a worse health outcome. Determinants of health seeking delay should be clarified in future studies and CL case finding must be improved. Moreover, HRQL analysis in other CL endemic regions could improve local health management.