Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 2009  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 386--391

Perceived illness intrusion among patients on hemodialysis

Usha Bapat, Prashanth G Kedlaya, Gokulnath 
 Department of Nephrology, St. John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore, India

Correspondence Address:
Usha Bapat
Department of Nephrology, St. John’s Medical College Hospital, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore


Dialysis therapy is extremely stressful as it interferes with all spheres of daily acti­vities of the patients. This study is aimed at understanding the perceived illness intrusion among pa­tients on hemodialysis (HD) and to find the association between illness intrusion and patient demo­graphics as well as duration of dialysis. A cross sectional study involving 90 patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage V, on HD was performed during the period from 2005 to 2006. The subjects included were above 18 years of age, willing, stable and on dialysis for at least two months. Patients with psychiatric co-morbidity were excluded. A semi-structured interview schedule covering socio­demographics and a 13 item illness intrusion checklist covering the various aspects of life was ca­rried out. The study patients were asked to rate the illness intrusion and the extent. The data were ana­lyzed statistically. The mean age of the subjects was 50.28 ± 13.69 years, males were predominant (85%), 73% were married, 50% belonged to Hindu religion, 25% had pre-degree education, 25% were employed and 22% were housewives. About 40% and 38% of the study patients belonged to middle and upper socio-economic strata respectively; 86% had urban background and lived in nuclear fami­lies. The mean duration on dialysis was 24 ± 29.6 months. All the subjects reported illness intrusion to a lesser or greater extent in various areas including: health (44%), work (70%) finance (55%), diet (50%) sexual life (38%) and psychological status (25%). Illness had not intruded in areas of rela­tionship with spouse (67%), friends (76%), family (79%), social (40%) and religious functions (72%). Statistically significant association was noted between illness intrusion and occupation (P= 0.02).

How to cite this article:
Bapat U, Kedlaya PG, Gokulnath. Perceived illness intrusion among patients on hemodialysis.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2009;20:386-391

How to cite this URL:
Bapat U, Kedlaya PG, Gokulnath. Perceived illness intrusion among patients on hemodialysis. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2009 [cited 2020 Aug 4 ];20:386-391
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Full Text


Life on dialysis is a perpetual challenge, due to the demanding treatment schedule and dietary restrictions. [1] The dialysis patients dependence on a machine for survival conflicts with the inde­pendence needed to maintain a normal life. A number of stress factors operate in patients on maintenance hemodialysis (HD). These include social, financial, and marital problems, depen­dency on the machine, limited activities and treat­ment related problems. [2] Life on dialysis (ESRD) shares similarities with other chronic disorders in that there are threats to autonomy, a con­siderable burden of illness and changes in func­tional status. [3] Illness intrusion is a fundamenta determinant of the psychosocial impact of chro­nic illness. [4] Chronic illnesses can disrupt life styles by interfering with involvement in acti­vities and interests. [5] Hagaren et al indicated that patients on HD experienced many areas of suffering. This is related to a loss of freedom because of dependency on the machine as a life­line, [6] and affects the nature and quality of ma­rital, family and social relationships. [2] Patients with ESRD typically experience a number of illness-induced stressors that can exert lifestyle disrupting effects. Illness intrusiveness is hypo­thesized to derive from illness induced anato­mical changes, functional deficits and physical disabilities. All these compromise psychosocial well being and contribute to increased emotional distress. [4] The paucity of published Indian lite­rature focusing on this subject prompted us to undertake the present study.

The aims and objectives of the study were (a) to study the perception of illness intrusion among patients on HD; (b) to delineate their demogra­phics and, (c) to look into the association between per-ceived illness intrusion and demographics as well as duration on dialysis.

 Materials and Methods

This is a cross sectional study of 90 incident chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients on HD during 2005-2006. We included patients above 18 years of age, who were willing to partici­pate, stable and who had completed at least two months of HD. Patients with previous psychia­tric co-morbidity were excluded. The subjects were interviewed using a semi-structured inter­view schedule covering demographics. A 13 item illness intrusion checklist covering the various aspects of life was used. Illness intrusion was assessed using a modified illness intrusion check­list based on Illness Intrusiveness Rating Scale [5] to suit the applicability to our patient popu­lation. This self reporting instrument obtains ratings of the extent to which the illness inter­feres with each of the life domains. The subjects had to rate their individual ratings on a 4 point scale ranging from zero (not applicable), one (not at all), two (to some extent) and three (to a great extent). The scores were then computed and the extent of the illness was determined. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the demographics and, Chi square test of associa­tion was used to analyze the variables with SPSS windows Version 10.


[Table 1] shows the demographic characteristics of the patients; 31% were above 58 years of age followed by 27% in the age-group 48-57 years and 21% in the age group of 38-47 years. There was male preponderance (71%) and 85% of the study patients were married. Nearly 75% of the respondents belonged to Hindu religion. Fifty-five percent had completed their pre-degree, 25% were employed, 40% and 38% respectively, were from middle and upper socio-economic strata. Eighty six percent of the respondents were from urban background and belonged to nuclear families.

[Figure 1] show the duration on dialysis in months. Majority of the respondents (80%) had completed 2-30 months on dialysis with a mean of 24.29 ± 29.76 months. [Figure 2] shows that 56% of the respondents were on thrice weekly dialysis. As shown in [Table 2], there was a sta­tistically significant association between illness intrusion and occupation (P= 0.02). All the res­pondent in of dialysis indicated that their illness had intruded into their daily life. The areas of daily life affected to varying degrees are depic­ted in [Table 3]; health (44%) and diet (50%) were the most affected. In the area of work, 70% reported illness intrusion of whom, 34% had in­trusion to "some extent" and 36% said they had intrusion to a "great extent".

Sixty percent of the respondents did not take part in any active sporting activities. Similarly, 50% did not have any hobbies and amongst those who had some hobbies, 23% reported no illness intrusion, 55% reported that illness intru­sion was experienced to a "great extent" and 26%, to "some extent."

Thirty eight percent reported illness intrusion to a great extent in sexual life, while relationship with the spouse was not affected in 67% of the respondents; relationship with family and friends was not affected in 79% of the respondents. In 69%, illness had not intruded largely into the psychological/emotional areas while 32% repor­ted intrusion to a small degree. Fifty percent of the subjects reported that illness had not inter­fered in their social functions. Similarly, 72% re­ported that illness had not interfered with re­gard to religious activities or functions.


Chronic disabling conditions disrupt the life­styles of the affected individuals and their fami­lies by interfering with their activities and inte­rests, thus compromising quality of life. [3] Illness intrusiveness or illness induced disruptions to lifestyle, activities and interest's impacts on the psycho social aspects of chronic illness, and it interferes with continued involvement in valued activities and interests. Illness intrusiveness has also been observed to relate systematically to a number of psychosocialoutcomes. In patients with ESRD, illness intrusion affects important life domains such as work and finances, family and personal relationships, recreation as well as health related domains. [6] These patients expe­rience a number of illness induced stressors. The most common of these are physical disabi­lity and incapacitation, decreased strength and stamina chronic pain, dependency on the ma­chine, complex medical regimens, significant time commitments for treatment and economic bur­dens. An illness is said to be intrusive when it substantially interferes with one's desired life style as in ESRD. [2] There is paucity of data in Indian literature in this field. The Western lite­rature available also carries limited information. There are few studies on illness intrusiveness among ESRD patients; one study compares pa­tients with chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and ESRD. [4]

As shown in [Table 1], there was a male prepon­derance in our study, which is consistent with higher prevalence of CKD in males or, it may be that more male patients seek treatment for ESRD. This could be due to the influence of both social and cultural factors. The elderly comprise the most rapidly expanding segment of ESRD population worldwide. 7 In this cohort, we ob­served a large majority of subjects were above 58 years of age. This could be due to, (a) the increased longevity attributable to medical/ technological advances and, (b) more centers are offering treatment for elderly CKD patients. Nearly 50% of the patients in the age-group 38 to 58 years included those who were, (a) unfit to undergo transplantation either due to co morbi­dity or absence of willing and medically fit do­nors in the family, (b) those waiting for a de­ceased donor kidney or (c) those subjects who had preferred dialysis therapy for personal rea­sons. In this study, the younger age group com­prised of a small number of patients, as they would have opted for transplantation. The sub­jects' marital status is consistent with their age with the majority being married. Seventy five percent of our study patients were educated up to pre degree, degree or post graduation. Nearly half the study patients were involved in some kind of an occupation, including the home­makers. Most were from the middle and upper socioeconomic strata, nuclear families and urban background.

There was a statistically significant association between illness intrusion and occupation [Table 2]. Individuals with ESRD experience signifi­cantly disabling symptoms such as fatigue, low energy, pain and reduced physical strength and stamina. This is consistent with the patients' perceived illness intrusion with work; in nearly 70%, illness had affected work to a lesser or greater extent. Also, the dialysis treatment sche­dule of three times a week, four hours each ses­sion, takes away significant productive time.

Chronic conditions may vary in the magnitude of illness intrusiveness they produce in specific life domains. [3] Intrusiveness, however, derives from illness produced disruptions. A variety of illness variables have been hypothesized to con­tribute to illness intrusions. [8] [Table 3] and [Table 4] in­dicate that illness intrusion was reported to a greater or lesser extent by 87% of the patients. The patients with ESRD reported significantly higher levels of illness intrusiveness into diet, most likely because of the substantial dietary and fluid intake limitations associated with renal replacement by HD. [3] A similar pattern is seen in our study sample; 77% were affected to a les­ser or greater extent by the modified diet. Sports activities were not applicable to 60% and of those who played, 23% reported that their acti­vities were affected to a great extent. Additio­nally, 50% did not have any hobbies. Eighty­one percent reported that illness intruded into finance to "a greater or lesser extent". This is because the governmental funding is not suffi­cient to meet the demands, and medical insu­rance is yet to become popular and thus, pa­tients have to pay for their treatment. Although there is enough expertise and facilities to pro­vide all forms of renal replacement therapy for ESRD, the government is just not able to fund that large amount and is able to spend only $9 (approximately Rs 336) per capita per year on health. [9]

Sexual dysfunction is common in patients with CKD on dialysis and often adversely affects quality of life. A myriad of sexual problems af­fect men and women with CKD including de­creased libido, erectile dysfunction, dysmenor­rhea and infertility. [10] More than half the study patients reported significantly high intrusiveness into sex life while 68% said that relationship with their spouses had not been affected. Indi­viduals with ESRD experience significant dis­abling symptoms, which may not be directly evident to the marital partners; they may fail to recognize these symptoms as determinants of illness intrusiveness. The spouses may perceive it as adoption of the sick role by the patient or abnormal behavior for secondary gain. [4] Illness intrusion was not experienced with regard to relationship with friends by 76%. Nearly 75% of the respondents reported no illness intrusion with regard to psychological and emotional spheres. This perception is probably seen among pa­tients who have been on dialysis for a long du­ration and are well adjusted. Similarly, illness intrusion into the social and religious functions was reported by 40% of the respondents while nearly 25% reported that it had not affected them at all. The statistically significant associa­tion between illness intrusion and occupation could be explained in terms of the stringent thrice a week dialysis schedule interfering with the work schedule.


We conclude from our study that HD patients perceived illness intrusion in their daily life. Males who were educated, employed, married, from nuclear families and urban background were predominant. Statistically significant asso­ciation was noted between illness intrusion and occupation.


We wish to place our sincere thanks to our colleague Dr. Shobhana G. Nayak, without whose support and encouragement, this study could not have been possible.


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