If you are a young woman and having a butterfly-shaped rash on cheeks, coupled with fever, joint pains and fatigue, better watch out! It probably is Lupus, an auto-immune disease, which could turn fatal if not treated early.
Lupus is a chronic disease. It causes inflammation (pain and swelling), affects the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other organs of the body. It mostly affects women in their 20s and 30s and occurs 10 times more in women than men. The other symptoms include weight loss, blood clots, poor circulation to fingers and toes. Pregnant women could have miscarriages.
In Lupus, the immune system, which normally protects the body by making antibodies that attack foreign germs and cancers, starts producing auto-antibodies targeting the patient’s own tissues. “We are seeing more patients with the disease now,” said Dr. Raj Kiran, Consultant Rheumatologist, CARE hospitals. However, due to lack of awareness, patients were turning up late when the disease has progressed and affected vital organs like kidneys. Describing it as a “peculiar disease”, he said it needed more attention because young women in childbearing age were affected.
If untreated, the disease would progress and the patient would die. At the same time, medications for the treatment cause side effects. Unlike in many other cases, Lupus patients require constant monitoring as the disease could flare up suddenly. A judicious balance needed to be maintained to prevent its progress and reduce side effects of drugs. While no definitive data is available in India, the prevalence could be one in every thousand, he added. The mortality rate could be one in 100 patients if vital organs like kidneys or brain were affected. It mostly gets triggered by some infection, environmental changes and at times by drugs. However, drug-induced Lupus would be mild most of the times, he added.
With women from weaker sections increasingly getting affected, Dr. Raj Kiran said that he planned to establish a foundation with the help of NGOs to extend support to such patients as the treatment was quite expensive. The foundation would also take up research and build data on Lupus patients.
Lupus mostly affects women in their 20s and 30s The disease occurs 10 times more in women than men