It’s World Lupus Day!

10

May 10th is World Lupus Day

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s connective tissue and organs. Parts of the body affected can include the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood and skin.

Up to 500,000 people in Europe have lupus. 90% of people with lupus are women and 80% of diagnoses are made between the ages of 15 and 45.

Symptoms can vary. The less severe ones include rashes, hair loss (alopecia), swollen glands, photosensitivity, joint pain and ulcers in the mouth or nose. In more severe cases, lupus may cause pleurisy, pericarditis, psychosis, meningitis, epilepsy or kidney failure. In young women, lupus can cause miscarriage or premature delivery.

If lupus affects vital organs and is left untreated it can be potentially fatal as it may cause organ damage and failure. Fortunately, in most cases, treatment puts lupus into remission before that can happen.

Great progress has been made developing treatment plans that considerably reduce lupus activity for most patients, however there is no cure yet! Typical treatment may include antimalarials (hydroxychloroquine), steroids (prednisolone), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and immuno-suppressants. Many patients do well on current medication but patients with more severe forms of lupus need more treatment options and solutions which reduce the current reliance on cortisone and its many long term side-effects. A complete treatment plan should also include physical exercise which is proven to have positive effects on fatigue, pain and mental health.

In March 2011, a new biological treatment became the first FDA-approved lupus drug treatment in over 50 years, however, is only used in limited cases due to its high cost. Several new treatments are now in the research and development process, but lupus research remains challenging because the disease itself is so multifaceted and complex in origin, with a mixture of genetic, environmental and other factors that has yet to be understood.

For most patients, living a full life with lupus is now possible, thanks to increasingly accepted standards of care, but this relies on early diagnosis, consistent treatment prescribed by a lupus specialist, and adherence to medication. Getting back to an active professional life may present a challenge for some but many people are able to return once their lupus is well controlled. Most women who want to start a family will also be able to if they plan their pregnancy carefully, with specialist supervision.

lupus europe

What is LUPUS EUROPE?

LUPUS EUROPE is an umbrella organisation that federates national lupus groups across Europe. It represents 26 groups (between 15-6,000 members), in 24 countries (33,000 people in all). It was first formed in 2000 (formerly known as ELEF).

LUPUS EUROPE’s activities include raising awareness, sharing information between members and countries, empowering national groups, and helping members participate in and benefit from research. Over the years, LUPUS EUROPE has fought hard for patient-centred care and the inclusion of patient organisations as valued healthcare stakeholders.

 

kick lupus poster with logo

The Kick Lupus campaign – Why ‘Kick Lupus’?

The campaign ‘Kick Lupus!’ focuses on the need for the development of better treatments, increased awareness about the disease’s impact, and management options for patients, carers and health professionals.

Kick-starting a better life – adhere to treatment: Not taking medication or taking it incorrectly is the #1 reason why treatment doesn’t work. Treatment is critical to living well with lupus. Know your pills, and follow your doctor’s advice. Doing so will help you kick your lupus!

Kicking ideas around – patient/doctor communication is key: We will only win in lupus if we work together as a team. The Doctor/Patient relationship is crucial: agreeing on treatment plans, working together on new treatment options, and participating in research to better kick lupus into oblivion!

Kicking yourself into shape: physical activity reduces tiredness and pain: It has been scientifically proven that physical activity helps reduce fatigue and pain. This is also true for people with lupus. It can be hard to exercise at first but it soon starts to pay. Exercise regularly, gradually increasing difficulty and endurance. A key component in kicking lupus!

Kicking lupus awareness into midfield: volunteer in your local group: You are not alone. Many of us are trying to kick lupus, and we need to move together, cheering each other on when we feel the burden – helping each other when we can. All our member organisations need volunteers to increase awareness and take projects forwards, kicking lupus together!

Help us Kick lupus NOW! Take your first steps today. You can find the list of local member groups on the LUPUS EUROPE Website (www.lupus-europe.org).

 

 

 

Jeanette’s story

image

When I got my lupus diagnosis in 2011 I was a very active young woman with a teaching job and on my way to study for a PHD at Aarhus university. I have a master’s degree in German and Philosophy and I loved teaching. I used to be a fitness instructor during my studies and keeping in shape meant a great deal to me and my well being.

I have had many symptoms of lupus from as far back as the year 2000, but I never thought to connect all the elusive symptoms like hair loss, joint pains, headaches, fatigue and depression in one disease. My husband and I were on our honeymoon in Bali when I got my first real flare.

We had planned a guided tour around the island but after a few days I started having fewer. The fewer went up and down a lot, but since it was my only symptom and there was no doctor nearby, we went on with the tour. After four or five days I had the opportunity to see a doctor and he took a blood test and gave me antibiotics. There are no laboratories on Bali, so the blood test had to be sent to Java for analysis, which takes four to five days. While waiting for the results I suddenly one evening had difficulty breathing and my chest started hurting. I was rushed to the emergency clinic, which consisted of a small open room with chairs and tables for examination. It was mostly used for the many motorbike accidents with scrapes and bruises and did not have the equipment nor the space for a patient like me. They thought I had an asthma attack or maybe a lung infection, so they treated me with a nebulizer and antibiotics in IV, which did not help at all. I got worse and worse and was brought to a larger hospital in Denpasar, the capital of Bali. They took x-rays of my lungs and saw I had an infection, which they treated with more antibiotics. This did not help at all, however, and I got to the point where I passed out and was brought to intensive care. I was hooked up to a lot of machines, which monitored my vitals and alarms kept going off because my body was giving up. My attending doctor was convinced I had a bad pneumonia and just needed more antibiotics, then I would get better. From my wedding day I had had a horrendous headache and this only got worse while I was in hospital. Some very nice nurses noticed this and called in a neurologist to have a look at me. She was the first one to really have a good look at my body and she noticed I had rashes on my legs, arms, chest and face and she had an idea, what it might be, but didn´t tell us. She performed a brain scan and called a rheumatologist and he had one look at me and told my poor husband: “Your wife has lupus”. Of cause he had to take tests to be sure, but he was so convinced he was right, that he started me up in 1000 mg. of corticoid steroids. After only two hours my body started to respond to the medication and the vital signs very slowly returned to normal. My husband did not believe, that this serious episode could be caused by arthritis, but he borrowed a computer, went online to the Danish arthritis association’s home page and read about lupus and suddenly all my symptoms from the past 11 years made sense. While I was recovering new tests were made and they all confirmed, that I had lupus. It manifested itself in my lungs, my heart, my brain and my central nervous system. After two weeks’ time I was so stable, that I could travel back home.

My lupus has turned out to be quite aggressive, partly because of my late diagnosis, and today the illness combined with side-effects from the medication has left me walking-impaired and a lot heavier than before. I am no longer able to work-out like I used to and a chronic headache alternating with migraines means I am no longer able to work. Since I still have my good education and I really needed to do something meaningful in my everyday life, I started as a volunteer in the Danish lupus association in 2012. I found such satisfaction in this work, that I have taken on more and more work since then. In 2014 I became a working group member of EULAR Young PARE and last year I was elected into the LUPUS EUROPE board. By volunteering for these organisations, I have the opportunity to help other people with an RMD, while still taking care of my own disease by only working, when I have the health and energy for it.

Although SLE has changed my life from a very active one, with a fulltime job and a lot of fitness in my spare time to a condition, where I am immobilised in a wheelchair and can work only a few hours a week, I have found a new purpose and meaning in life, by helping other people with RMDs all across Europe.

image

 

worldlupusday.org

World Lupus Day is just one week away…

12974286_972287666195190_3204235459714330691_n

The World Lupus Federation which encompasses the LFA, LUPUS EUROPE and other world Lupus organisations, has set up a website specially dedicated to World Lupus Day. On the site you can find out more about different activities throughout the world, download a Lupus toolkit and sign the petition asking for lupus to be made a priority for the WHO (World Health Organisation).