From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
A few weeks ago, some health professionals raised the alarm that a disease called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), commonly known as Lupus, was fast becoming more deadly, and should get the attention of the government and other stakeholders.
The disease, which is unknown to the majority of Nigerians, particularly among cariers, is fast spreading, thereby worsening the health situation of the country and people.
Research shows that women of childbearing age are affected about nine times more often than men, and it most commonly begins between the ages of 15 and 45, but a wide range of ages can be affected.
There are indications that those of African, Caribbean, and Chinese descent are at higher risk than people in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, the spate of the disease in the developing world seems unclear.
There are concerns that the situation could be more catastrophic, if not controlled, by bringing the cariers into the treatment net.
Aside from the interventions of the Federal Ministry of Health, some not-for-profit organizations are championing the fight against the disease, even though not much has been achieved in that regard.
Recently, Arise Monalisa Foundation (AMF), a non-profit organization, began an enlightenment campaign to raise public awareness on the devastating effects of the disease on people who have the ailment knowingly or unknowingly.
AMF founder, Monalisa Chinda-Coker, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja that the disease has assumed a worrisome dimension due to the growing number of people in the Lupus community, hence the decision to mobilize resources and manpower to amplify the cry of the cariers and demand treatment opportunities for them.
She admitted that not much was achieved previously as regards advocacy and treatment due to some challenges, but stated that sensitization activities, particularly in rural communities, have been lined up in the coming years, to ensure that more cases are brought under treatment.
She said: “There’s an existing Lupus community in Nigeria, which is growing. It has grown rapidly from five known cases to about 35 within the shortest period. This means that intensification of efforts is a must.
“We plan to set up mini testing centres across the country and also engage in other advocacy programmes, including a documentary that would highlight major interesting activities and events, the plights of the sufferers and remedies to their problems.”
She promised to mobilised her colleagues and friends who are influential in the film industry and other celebrities ahead of 2022 World Lupus Day and other activities to raise awareness on the disease.
She disclosed that, from January to April 2022, they would focus on intensifying efforts on building viable partnerships and collaborations with local and international organizations that are passionate about the fight against Lupus.
What is Lupus?
SLE, popularly known as Lupus, Latin word for “wolf,” was so named in the 13th century because the rash was thought to appear like a wolf’s bite.
Research further disclosed that Lupus is an inflammatory and auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system “mistakenly” attacks healthy tissues in many parts of the body.
This simply means that the body develops an excessive immune system that, in turn, attacks itself, perhaps, due to the absence of ailments or other things to fight or feast on.
Causes of Lupus
Director of hospital management, Zenith Medical and Kidney Centre, Abuja, Dr. Thelma Olatise, at a press conference to herald the advocacy engagement, increased people’s fear and anxiety when she said the disease has no cure for now, but can only be managed.
She said: “There’s no known cure for Lupus. Besides, you can’t cure what you don’t have full information about. I work in a kidney centre and I see lots of women that come down with kidney diseases.
“Within a short period of time, we have carried out kidney transplant for over six women who had kidney failure as a result of Lupus. It’s a serious and degenerative illness, and, if not treated on time, could lead to destruction of every tissue in the body system.
“Unfortunately, lots of people are taking some of these unknown diseases for granted. There are lots of these diseases that are unknown to so many people but they are deeply eating the vital organs of the cariers.”
Symptoms of Lupus
Medical professionals conversant with the ailment confirmed that the disease attacks the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
The symptoms, according to findings, vary between people. While it may be mild in some people, others may experience severe reactions.
However, the common symptoms include painful and swollen joints, fever, chest pain, hair loss, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, tiredness, and a red rash usually on the face.
Oftentimes, there are periods of illness, called flares, and periods of remission during which there are fewer or no symptoms.
Signs of Lupus
Olatise confirmed that women are mostly affected by Lupus, but that doesn’t rule out the chances in men.
“We all need to be extra careful with our health,” she advised.
According to her, Lupus majorly appears as dark patches like the butterfly effect on the face of the carier.
“Most times, it’s black or brown in colour. It’s more common in women than men. But that doesn’t mean men don’t come down with the disease.
“However, I am glad that someone is raising awareness about Lupus, because we often dwell on breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and other known diseases, forgetting these kinds of ailments that are bringing many people down,” she said.