16th October 2012 – Help patients to learn more about lupus
Rheumatology nurses at Airedale Hospital are joining a national campaign to raise awareness of Lupus disease this month (October).
They have put together an information display for staff, patients and visitors which will be in the hospital from Monday 15 October.
GPs and other health professionals may fail to recognise the illness as it can affect any part of the body and has many symptoms which can mimic other conditions. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and the start of vital treatment to contain the disease and limit potential damage to major organs such as the kidneys, heart, lungs or brain.
Dr Shabina Sultan, rheumatology consultant at Airedale Hospital, said: “We need to make sure that the public and health professionals know more about systemic lupus so that diagnosis can be made quickly and accurately to help prevent patients from suffering long term damage to their organs and improve their quality of life”.
Systemic lupus is an incurable illness of the immune system and genetics may play a part. It is a condition in which the body’s defence mechanism begins to attack itself through an excess of antibodies in the blood stream causing inflammation and damage in the joints, muscles and other major organs. Discoid Lupus is usually a condition of the skin; but patients can rarely develop systemic lupus.
Around 50,000 people are estimated to have Lupus in the UK and 90 percent of these are female, mainly between the ages of 15 and 55. This makes it more common than leukaemia, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis – and these conditions share a number of similar symptoms.
Symptoms to watch out for are Reynaud’s (a disorder resulting in the small blood vessels being over-sensitive to changes in temperature and discoloration of the fingers, toes, and occasionally other areas), joint and muscle pain and an extreme tiredness that won’t go away no matter how much you rest. Rashes, photosensitivity, anaemia, fever, hair loss, mouth ulcers, depression and headaches may all be part of the pattern of lupus. The diagnosis is made by specialist such as rheumatologists using a combination of symptoms, clinical findings on examination and blood tests; including antibodies. There is no diagnostic test for lupus; therefore it is important to see a specialist who has experience in managing this disease.
How lupus affects people can differ greatly – for some the disease can be mild and for others it can be life-threatening.
Advice for patients is to:
- find out as much information as possible about your illness
- learning to ‘pace’ yourself – rest is very essential
- be open with family and friends about the unpredictable pattern of lupus
- avoid direct sunlight
- make sure you get help at the right time from your doctor and family
LUPUS UK is a national charity supporting people with systemic lupus and discoid lupus. It has over 5,500 members and regional groups around the UK who arrange medical talks, publish local newsletters, organise events and raise funds. The charity produces a national magazine for members and supports research into the condition.
For more information about the condition visit http://www.lupusuk.org.uk.