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People with lupus can live normal life, say experts

By Maria Diamond
28 May 2022   |   2:45 am
Medical experts have said that people with lupus, a chronic medical condition, can live to normal life expectancy if diagnosed early and managed by rheumatologists.

Lupus

Medical experts have said that people with lupus, a chronic medical condition, can live to normal life expectancy if diagnosed early and managed by rheumatologists.

 
They also noted that pregnancy is achievable in women with autoimmune disease, which according to them affects more women than men.

The experts gave these assurances at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, while marking this year’s World Lupus Day recently.

The Labalaba Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with the Nigerian Society of Rheumatology and the Rheumatology Clinics of LUTH and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), hosted the event, which was held with the theme ‘Speak Out.’

Speaking during a panel session titled ‘Sexual Health in Lupus’, a Professor of Medicine and Consultant Rheumatologist at LASUTH, Prof. Olufemi Adelowo, and a Consultant Gynecologist at LUTH, Dr. Joseph Olamijulo, among other experts, said the condition, which is predominantly common in women, is not a spiritual problem as held by many people.

“Contrary to the notion held by many people, lupus is not a spiritual problem or attack. It is a medical condition that if diagnosed early and managed by rheumatologists, patients can live normal life expectancy,” Adelowo said.

Olamijulo noted that women in their reproductive years suffer more from the condition, saying if a patient has lupus, the patient’s risk is higher for other health problems that are common in women such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

The consultant gynaecologist explained that pregnancy is achievable in lupus but warned that it’s a high-risk pregnancy.

He advised that the health of such patients should be optimised, advising that they should be assigned to a specialist and booked for the antenatal clinic as soon as possible.
   
Olamijulo stated that babies born to women with lupus would not necessarily have the illness because it is not genetic.
   
Also speaking at the event, a Senior Registrar in Rheumatology, Dr Etse Igebu, said the medical condition affects women in their reproductive years between 25 to 45 years.

She added that the question that comes to the mind of such women is the possibility of getting married.
   
Igebu explained that most female patients with lupus often complained of vaginal dryness and pain during sexual intercourse. She stated that while some of them are depressed, others lose their self-esteem.
 
The rheumatologist further explained that such patients could get married, adding that medical experts would always encourage them to use lubrication and take their medications accurately and build up their self-esteem.
 
Igebu said the mode of delivery for lupus patients could be by normal delivery or cesarean operation.

“We support them the best way that we can. We have patients that were diagnosed with lupus at the age of 13 and they are happily married. Lupus does not curb sexual life and does not disturb being married,” Igebu said.
 
For Dr Kehinde Shodimu, a consultant psychiatrist with LUTH, lupus affects practically all organs of the body due to the systemic nature of the illness.

She said that patients are prone to depression and could have a bit of low self-esteem or confidence, adding that psychiatrists do supportive psychotherapy for patients who come in from time to time.
   
Shodimu said that due to stigma, a lot of people don’t visit hospitals. She encouraged people with the medical challenge to focus on positivity, self-love and lifestyle modification.

 
On her part, the Deputy Director, Medical Social Services, LUTH, Titi Tade, said that lupus was more common now than was earlier reported.

“Studies have shown that it is found among women in Nigeria. When a patient gets the first sign of lupus and has been treating malaria without being healed, they turn it to be a spiritual problem. It is not a spiritual problem but a medical illness,” she said.
 
According to Tade, most patients were diagnosed when married and the pains and feelings that came with it made sexual intercourse difficult.

“The support structure around the patients was very important but the focus mainly was always on the patients.

“A lot of education and awareness needed to be done with the spouse, children and in-laws, based on the approval of the patient,” she added.
   
Earlier, in her welcome speech, Consultant Dermatologist and Physician, LUTH, Dr Aisha Akinkugbe, said the mission of The Labalaba Foundation was to create awareness about lupus and ensure that quality of life was improved for the patients.
   
Akinkugbe, who also is the co-founder of The Labalaba Foundation, stated that the Foundation had existed for five years, advocating for lupus patients.
   
She said that over the years, the NGO had done various activities, which included education of secondary school students, the community and supporting family members too.
   
“We also have various activities for the support around lupus patients. For example, lupus patients come together for education, nutrition habits, lifestyle and counselling.
   
“We also have frank talk with husbands and brothers, that is the men that are around lupus patients,” she said.

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