Experts urge more public awareness of lupus disease

As Nigeria joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the 2023 World Lupus Day, experts have called for more public awareness of the ailment. 

The day is marked on May 10 every year to call attention to the health condition. This year’s World Lupus Day is themed ‘Make Lupus Visible’ and seeks ways to increase public awareness about lupus diagnosis and its psychological, social, and economic consequences.

The experts noted that the need for more public enlightenment hinged on the fact that lupus has no cure, adding that patients with the condition may have to take lifelong medications.

The experts, Family Practice Physician, Ashtabula County Medical Centre, Ohio, United States, Dr. Adeola Fakolade, and Consultant Dermatologist, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Dr. Toyosi Ilesanmi stressed that massive public awareness and education were necessary to effectively combat the health condition.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Dr. Fakolade defined lupus as a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect any body organ, adding that it afflicts women more than men.  

Dr. Fakolade noted that because lupus can affect any organ, the symptoms vary widely from rashes, joint aches, swelling in the feet, tiredness, fever, and muscle aches to more serious abnormal heart rhythm, chest pain, or kidney failure.

The United States-based physician said lupus “unfortunately does not have a definitive cure but the symptoms can be treated with medications. It may require lifelong medications. Yes, women are more affected, especially women of childbearing age. It is also more common in black patients than in Caucasian patients. It is a multi-factorial disease and there is no definitive way to avoid lupus. 

“However, you can avoid triggers if you are already diagnosed with lupus by avoiding stress, sulfa medications, reducing sun exposure, and avoiding tetracycline antibiotics because they cause sun sensitivity. It may require lifelong medications and ses, women are more affected, especially women of childbearing age”.

Dr. Fakolade also stressed the need for lupus patients to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

“In general, maintain a healthy lifestyle including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, etc. 

“We can increase awareness by days like this when the disease is recognised and education is provided on the symptoms and management. Lupus can present in many ways and sometimes making a diagnosis is difficult because it can mimic other common illnesses. If you are experiencing any of its symptoms and not getting better despite adequate treatment, you need to talk to your doctor,” Dr. Fakolade said.

Also speaking with our correspondent, Dr. Ilesanmi stated that lupus can affect the skin, joints, the brain and the heart. He added that it can also affect the kidney, the lungs, and indeed any part of the body.

She said, “It is a very complex disease because it can affect a lot of systems if it affects the skin, it can give rise to different sorts of rashes, and the person can have skin rashes that is scarring in nature. The person can lose hair and have oral ulcers, the person can also have recurring joint pains and swellings and the person can have urinal failure and the person can have swelling in the face in the legs, and might also stop producing urine. 

“Depending on how advanced the disease is in the renal system. If the disease affects the brain the person can have a stroke or dementia, if it affects the blood including the white blood cells, the platelets, and the red blood cells, it can reduce the production of these cell lines and cause anaemia and the person might need to be transfused with blood. 

“The person can have leukemia in which the white blood cells count reduces so much, that the patient can have very life-threatening infections.”

She stressed that the media should lead the public sensitisation about the illness because all Nigerians need to be educated about the health condition.

She said, “One of the ways to educate our people is by using the media. We are so lucky that we have so many social media handles aside the traditional media. We have Instagram, we have Twitter and we also have newspapers, radio, tv. 

“We can take health education to schools and talk to teenagers and young adults to inform them about it. This is because, for this condition, the patient has to be on drugs for life.”

In a press statement released by the World Lupus Federation to commemorate the 2023 World Lupus Day, the federation stressed the need to use the opportunity of WLD to raise awareness of the condition across the world.

Professor Syed Atiqul Haq, President, Lupus Foundation of Bangladesh, and member of the eight-nation WLF steering committee stated in the statement that “World Lupus Day is an incredibly important opportunity to raise awareness of the physical, emotional, and economic impact that lupus can have.

“For many in Bangladesh and around the world, lupus isn’t understood, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and for those living with the disease to feel misunderstood and unable to receive the care they need for this debilitating disease. 

“Each voice sharing facts on World Lupus Day can have an incredible impact and bring greater attention and resources to efforts to end lupus.”


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