To raise awareness and make a difference for people affected by Lupus in Nigeria, experts from Labalaba Foundation for Lupus Awareness and Advocacy have urged patients to make their rheumatologists their best friends and go for constant check up.
The foundation made this call in partnership with Rheumatology and Dermatology Clinics of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital on World Lupus Day 2018 in Lagos recently.
According to a Consultant Dermatologist and Genito-Urinary Physician, LUTH, Dr. Ayesha Akinkugbe, Lupus knows no boundaries. It affects anyone on any organ anywhere in the world.
She described it as a chronic, complex autoimmune disease that affects millions worldwide. "More than 90 per cent of people with lupus are women; the majority is diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 44."
Akinkugbe, who is also Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said women of African descent were more at risk more than the men.
She added: "In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that attack the body's own tissues and organs like the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints."
Some of the symptoms she warned against are; constant malaria, fever, typhoid, rashes on faces and body, weakness, anaemia, convulsion, mouth and throat sore, chest pain, headache, loss of concentration, among others.
"Global prevalence of lupus also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) lies between 0.02 per cent and 0.15 per cent. The incidence and prevalence is two to three times more in Africans and Asians than in Caucasians.
"The epidemiology of lupus in Nigeria and Africa is largely undetermined, and the perception persists that the incidence is very low. Recent studies as well as our own experience suggest that significant numbers of Nigerian patients were presenting with SLE. University of Ibadan reports about 100,000 cases in Nigeria a year," she added.
In a rheumatology clinic in Lagos, the expert disclosed that lupus accounted for 5.28 per cent of all the 1,250 rheumatology cases seen over the study period of six years. "Females constituted 95.5 per cent of the cases seen. And the age range was 17-55 years.
"A recent study found that lupus has become one of the top causes of death of females between 15 and 24 years old. This can be attributed to lack of societal awareness; therefore, the awareness effort in Nigeria must become more aggressive," the dermatologist said.
The Labalaba Foundation has assured patients that they were committed to improving their quality of lives through education, advocacy and support that will engage the healthcare community and the society at large.
Akingugbe added: "The Foundation envisions a Nigeria where everyone is informed about lupus and lupus patients can aspire to long productive lives, until a cure is found."
Speaking also, a Professor of Medicine and Consultant Rheumatologist at, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Olufemi Adelowo, said the cause of lupus remained unknown, though there are many hypotheses.
He said: "One thing that is certain is that the disease results from a malfunction of the protective system. Some persons and families appear prone to these conditions."
He decried, however, that the drugs for lupus were expensive. "Because there is increase rate of lupus, we need more drugs for treatment; but they are expensive. And many of the drugs in Nigeria are said to be fake."