Monday, May 10 every year has been dedicated as the International Lupus Awareness Day, a day that is celebrated globally to raise awareness about Lupus, and honour all those battling the disease. The entire month of May is also Lupus Awareness Month.
Lupus is a Chronic Auto-immune disease, whereby the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues.
In Lupus, the immune system which is designed to protect the body from infections, creates antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and organs that means the immune system is over-active unlike most diseases.
Lupus attacks differently from patient to patient and can affect any organ of the body including kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, joints, blood, skin etc.
Some patients experience severe while others with mild symptoms. Though there’s no known cure for Lupus and other auto-immune diseases, it can be managed through medication.
Rheumatologists are medical specialists who manage these diseases and they are very few in Kenya. The treatment includes using immunosuppressants that make patients immunocompromised, it is, therefore, important for patients to take utmost care during this time of Covid- 19 by observing the containment directives given by the Government.
Lupus patients have been advised by the doctors to get the Covid-19 vaccine, except those with known allergies to any of the components of the vaccine or those with low platelet count this is because of possible blood clots. This is because of the low immunity caused by excessive use of immunosuppressants that makes the patients vulnerable to infections.
In Africa, there are many unreported cases of auto-immune diseases. There is limited awareness about the diseases in Kenya, yet the prevalence continues to increase yearly.
There are no official figures of the total number of people diagnosed with auto-immune diseases but surveys are being conducted, however, the number is not large. We wish all warriors well as they continue to fight this debilitating disease.
As researchers seek for a permanent cure, we also remember those who’ve been taken and gone before us, such as Lorna Irungu, a brave Lupus warrior who succumbed to covid-19 recently.
There are a number of initiatives that have been formed in the country, namely, Scleroderma, Lupus and other Auto-immune Diseases (SCLAD) and Lupus Foundation of Africa (LFA) among others.
These interventions have been established to promote awareness and raise support for persons with auto-immune diseases at the community level.
They aim at alleviating the skyrocketing financial, psychological and social challenges including stigma that people suffering from auto-immune diseases experience.
On Sunday, April 9, SCLAD organised a Lupus Awareness Walk, the first one during this pandemic. The main purpose for this walk was to raise awareness about Lupus, as the world prepares to mark the Annual World Lupus Awareness day on May 10.
The turnout was great and very impressive and the Lupus warriors had a great time meeting each other after a long time. This event was also graced by their well-wishers and this gave them a lot of encouragement despite their suffering.
It was a day filled with laughter, fun and stories from Lupus warriors. All participants donned their purple apparel which is the theme color for Lupus.
Despite these initiatives which highly depend on well-wishers, the demand for treatment is still very high and therefore cannot cater for all patients because the cost of medication is still prohibitive thereby forcing many patients to skip medication due to financial constraints.
Lupus patients have hopes that the Government will intervene for them in terms of subsidizing the cost of treatment and at the same time assist in raising awareness at the community level.
By Esther Wanjau