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Greater Pain Severity is Associated with Higher Glucocorticoid Levels in Hair Among a Cohort of People Living with HIV

Authors Zhang Q, Li X, Qiao S, Liu S, Shen Z, Zhou Y

Received 20 January 2021

Accepted for publication 19 February 2021

Published 9 March 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 645—652


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Houman Danesh

Quan Zhang,1,2 Xiaoming Li,1 Shan Qiao,1 Shuaifeng Liu,3 Zhiyong Shen,3 Yuejiao Zhou3

1South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality (CHQ), Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA; 2Institute of Pedagogy and Applied Psychology, School of Public Administration, Hohai University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, People’s Republic of China; 3Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanning, Guangxi, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence: Quan Zhang
South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality (CHQ), Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Discovery I, Suite 408, 915 Greene Street, Columbia, SC, 29028, USA
Tel +1 803 777 8615
Fax +1 803 777 6290
Email [email protected]
Yuejiao Zhou
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Center for Disease Control and Prevention, No. 18 Jinzhou Road, Nanning, Guangxi, 530028, People’s Republic of China
Tel +86 771 251 8838
Email [email protected]

Background: Pain is a common occurrence and persistent symptom, which has an adverse impact on individual well-being and quality of life among people living with HIV (PLHIV). Alteration in the activity of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis resulting in abnormal glucocorticoid levels had been proposed to play important roles in those associations.
Purpose: This study aimed to investigate whether pain severity was associated with hair glucocorticoid levels, a novel method of measuring long-term glucocorticoid exposure, among a large cohort of Chinese PLHIV.
Methods: A measure of pain severity and hair samples were collected from 431 adults PLHIV in Guangxi, China. Glucocorticoid (cortisol and cortisone) in hair were quantified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The general linear model was used to test the associations of pain severity with hair glucocorticoid levels after adjusting for potential confounding factors.
Results: Of the 431 PLHIV, 273 reported none pain, 87 reported mild pain, and 71 reported moderate-severe pain. Hair cortisone, but not hair cortisol, was found to differ significantly among the three pain severity groups (F=3.90, p=0.021). PLHIV reported moderate-severe pain had higher hair cortisone than those reported mild (p=0.070) or none pain (p=0.014), with no differences between the latter two pain severity groups.
Conclusion: Greater pain severity is associated with higher hair cortisone levels among Chinese PLHIV. In order to reduce the long-term glucocorticoid levels, interventions managing pain should be considered for PLHIV with moderate-severe pain.

Keywords: pain, hair cortisol, hair cortisone, HIV

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