Friday, December 18, 2009

What is Lupus?

What is Lupus?
Sat, Dec 05, 2009
The Straits Times

Lupus is a chronic illness where the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake.

The most common type of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affects many parts of the body.

Women are most at risk of developing the disease, with the female to male patient ratio at nine to one. The peak age of onset in women is between the late teens and early 40s.

Those with African, Hispanic, native American or Asian ancestry are more prone to developing lupus.

Factors like sun exposure, viral infection and drugs can trigger the disorder but no one cause has been identified.

Genetics can also play a part in SLE. Dr Anita Lim, a consultant in the division of rheumatology at National University Hospital, said: "SLE can strike suddenly but usually the person affected by it would have been feeling unwell for some time before seeking medical attention."

Symptoms include fatigue, mouth ulcers, hair loss, rashes and joint pain. There is no cure for lupus but medication like antimalarial drugs, steroids and steroid sparing agents, which are drugs that modify the course of the disease, help to control the disease.

Steroids are usually used in the beginning as they fight the inflammation very quickly.

Dr Lim said: "It is possible for lupus to go into remission. However, the patient will need to remain on long-term follow-up medication."

Asked if treatment regimens for lupus and cancer modify each other's effects, Dr Lim said: "Cancer needs to be treated irrespective of lupus and the specialists involved will work together on how the different therapies should be used.

"Treatment for lupus modulates the immune system and treatment for cancer will also have effects on the immune system."

The Lupus Association

The Lupus Association (Singapore) was set up in 1992 and has 300 members currently. There are around 4,000 lupus patients in Singapore.

Dr Leong Keng Hong, vice-president of the association and consultant rheumatologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said: "The association was set up to help educate patients, their caregivers and the public about the illness. It is a rather complicated disease and sufferers are often afraid when they're diagnosed."

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

Living with lupus
Wed, Dec 10, 2008

IF any newly diagnosed Systemic Lupus Erythematosus patient asks Chee Siew Lan for advice in dealing with the chronic illness, she has only this to say: "Never give up."

Having lived with this incurable illness for 21 years, she knows that she would not be alive if she had given up hope and didn't have the determination to fight it.

"When I had the symptoms in 1987, no one knew what it was. Lupus was unheard of at that time. The doctor even told me that I had only five years to live. But I refused to give up. I did my own research and learnt all about the symptoms, treatment and medication. I learned the things that I could and could not do as a lupus sufferer.

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