09th May 2018
Over 8 000 Batswana and over 200 000 South Africans are living with Lupus, a destructive condition where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissues. Source:The Midweek Sun

Specialist in Lupus and other rare diseases Dr. Micah Karibo describes the condition as a silent killer the world over.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system, instead of serving its normal protective function, forms antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. There are several types of Lupus. Discoid Lupus affects the skin, causing a rash and lesions, usually across the face and upper part of the body. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is usually more severe than Discoid and can attack any body organ or system, such as joints, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs.

The doctor says that symptoms and diagnosis occur most often when women are in their childbearing years, between the ages of 15 and 44. “Symptoms of Lupus will occur before age 18 in 15 percent of the people who are later diagnosed with the disease,” he explains. Relatives of people with Lupus have an approximately 5-13 percent chances of developing Lupus. However, only about 5 percent of children will develop Lupus if their mother has it.

According to Dr. Karibo, currently there is no cure for Lupus, but there certainly is effective treatment. For most people with Lupus, proper treatment can minimise symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, and stop the development of serious organ damage. Lupus raises chances of heart disease and stroke. Karibo says this is probably due to the long-term inflammation that comes with Lupus. Some Lupus medicines, such as steroids, may also increase the risk. In addition, Lupus causes inflammation of the heart or the sac that surrounds it. This can cause sharp pain in the chest.

Lupus also may inflame the outside lining of the lungs. Pain often gets worse with deep breaths. Kidneys too, may suffer inflamation, causing permanent damage. This can lead to swelling in the legs and high blood pressure. “Sometimes Lupus can lead to kidney failure and require dialysis,” he says, confirming that it is risky to fall pregnant when you have Lupus.

In Botswana, a movement on Facebook called Lupus Association of Botswana is doing a great job raising awareness about the disease. Although there are no statistics on patients, several Batswana are sharing their experiences. However, internet site says that in Botswana 8,437 are currently managing Lupus. South Africa had the largest of 228,778, followed by Tanzania at 185,658.

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