Doha, 12 May, 2019: Dr. Samar Al Emadi, Head of the Rheumatology Division at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Hamad General Hospital, says a new group therapy program set to be introduced later this year will provide patients living with lupus with support from others who understand their condition.
“Systemic lupus erythematosus, more commonly known as lupus, is a complex, chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs,” said Dr. Al Emadi.
“Lupus has many different symptoms and affects each person differently, with symptoms ranging from a mild skin rash to serious complications impacting major organs such as the heart and brain. The symptoms of lupus can come and go and can change over time, making the disease difficult to diagnose and treat. The emotional effects of lupus can be as challenging to manage as the physical effects, so our planned peer-based group therapy will help enhance our patients’ self-efficacy in managing their condition,” said Dr. Al Emadi.
Dr. Al Emadi said the new support group will allow patients to talk candidly about their experience of living with lupus, asking each other questions and providing words of encouragement during difficult times. She says HMC is currently treating around 450 patients with lupus and has been at the forefront of lupus care in the region. Last year HMC introduced a specialist antenatal clinic for pregnant women with lupus. The first of its kind in the Middle East, the clinic cares for around 55 pregnant women each year.
“Lupus is more common in women and tends to appear in women of childbearing age. It can be very challenging to diagnose and treat, especially in pregnant women, and it can lead to pregnancy loss, pre-eclampsia, premature birth, and a failure of the baby to grow. Since its establishment, our clinic has recorded excellent outcomes among patients and their babies,” said Dr. Al Emadi.
While lupus develops mostly in women between the ages of 15 and 45, men, older people, and children can also be diagnosed with the disease. Dr. Omar Alsaed, Associate Consultant, Rheumatology Division, says a lupus diagnosis is life-changing and he notes that early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can significantly help control the disease.
“Worldwide, around five million people are thought to live with lupus. While the signs and symptoms vary, common symptoms include extreme tiredness, headaches, painful or swollen joints, fever, and a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose. There is no cure for lupus and because no two people with lupus are alike, the best treatment is one that is tailored to each patient’s specific condition. It is important to see a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of lupus,” said Dr. Alsaed.
Earlier this month the Rheumatology Section organized events at Hamad General Hospital and the Women’s Wellness and Research Center in recognition of World Lupus Day. Dr. Alsaed said a key objective of the events was to educate members of the public about lupus and to correct common misconceptions. He says when people hear that lupus is an autoimmune disease, they immediately equate it to other diseases of the immune system and mistakenly believe it is a contagious disease. He notes that low awareness of lupus contributes to late diagnosis, which is both physically and emotionally damaging to those affected by the disease.
“Many of our patients tell us that one of the challenges of living with lupus is the misconceptions and the resulting social stigma. No one can ‘catch’ lupus or ‘give it’ to someone else. Lupus is a very treatable disease. The condition does not cause infertility, and women with lupus can give birth to healthy babies,” said Dr. Alsaed.
“Low awareness of lupus contributes to late diagnosis and we know this disease is better managed if diagnosed and treated early. Raising awareness of lupus, and correcting common misconceptions, is a key objective of our team and we are committed to not only improving the health outcomes for patients with lupus but also to shine a light on the many issues affecting people living with this disease,” added Dr. Alsaed.
10 May is World Lupus Day. Proclaimed by the World Lupus Federation, the day focuses on the need for heightened public awareness, improved patient healthcare services, increased research into the causes of and a cure for lupus, and enhanced physician diagnosis and treatment of lupus.