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Influences of Climate Variables on the Disease Symptoms of a Male Lupus Patient

Faculty Supervisor:
Dwight Krehbiel
Year of Project Completion:
Sarah Buller


A senior thesis project, paper, and presentation. These findings were also presented to the URICA Symposium, Bethel College, May 2, 2009. Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease, affecting over one million Americans. Lupus patients commonly report experiencing increased pain with various weather patterns and barometric pressure fluctuations. The present study is a case-study of an eighteen-year lupus sufferer who charted lupus-associated pain, rash presence, and barometric pressure. One goal of the present study is to describe and explain the patterns of pain and rash ratings charted by this patient. Hand-drawn charts were digitized using Engauge digitizing software. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was used to examine relationships among pain, barometric pressure, temperature, dew point, month, season, and rash with years treated as individuals. Temperature was a significant predictor of pain intensity (p = 0.038). When outliers were removed, barometric pressure was a significant predictor of pain intensity (p = 0.042). Analysis of deviance revealed that a model including barometric pressure, temperature, and dew point was the best model for predicting pain intensity (p < 0.000). Month and season were both significant predictors of rash intensity (p < 0.04). Responses to the McGill Pain Questionnaire indicate that pain experiences differ in intensity, not type of pain. This data provided a more comprehensive description of C.W.’s pain experience. Health-related quality of life was measured using the disease-specific questionnaire, the LupusQoL. These data indicated that C.W. has good health-related quality of life. More importantly, free responses from C.W. regarding quality of life indicate that he is effectively managing his disease and learning from his experience. These results indicate the importance of adopting a biopsychosocial perspective on chronic illness, for multiple factors are involved in the disease experience.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.