Living with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
For some, the disease might ring a bell, thanks to Selena Gomez’s openness about her battle with the condition. For the uninitiated, SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system — which is supposed to defend one from infections — mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues of one’s skin, joints, kidneys, brain and/or other organs.

Lupus manifestations:
The disease affects one in every thousand in India, out of which a majority are women. “It’s a life-threatening disease and it’s frequently diagnosed in women between ages 15-25. The male: female ratio is 1:15,” explains Dr C Panchapakesa Rajendran, consultant rheumatologist, Kauvery Hospital. There are four types of lupus — one that affects the skin, drug-induced, neonatal lupus and the most common-life threatening type, SLE. “Joint pains, oral ulcers, photosensitivity, fever, fatigue, hair loss, arthritis, blood disorders, antinuclear bodies (ANA), kidney disorder, butterfly rashes…can be found. A person with the condition can typically identify one or more of these symptoms and manifestations. It is advisable to present oneself to the doctor if one or more of the symptoms are identified. The sooner, the better,” he says. Basic investigations and laboratory tests including blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), kidney and liver assessment, urinalysis and antinuclear antibody (ANA) test may be done.

How was I supposed to wake up early and attend classes?” asks the media student. With photosensitivity, frequent inflammations and infections becoming a risk factor, Charulatha considered dropping out of college. “It was dark. Imagine being unable to wear the clothes you want, or eat the food you want to. Nausea, fatigue and depression became my companions. But my parents supported me. I found a support system through other people with the condition. Now, I have made it to my final year in college,” she says. On the other hand, a delayed diagnosis of the condition led to lupus nephritis for 25-year old Akshitha Hariharan*. “It was a nightmare. I was misdiagnosed with arthritis for about two years. When the pain was unbearable, we took a second opinion and I was diagnosed with lupus. It’s been a long journey…but, I am willing to fight,” she says

The symptoms often mimic other disorders and this makes early diagnosis a problem. But if a person is diagnosed with lupus, treatments are usually modified to suit the patient’s need.

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