Rheumatological diseases are more than hundred conditions that affect joints, muscles, various internal organs like kidney, lungs etc. that result in crippling pain, disability, mental agony, poor quality of life and can be life threatening at times.
These diseases include various autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Vasculitis that are caused by self immune system attacking one’s own body and several other rare diseases. They affect any age group regardless of gender and around 2-3% of Indian population is suffering from these diseases.
Common symptoms of rheumatological diseases are joint pain and swelling, muscle pain, skin rashes, hair loss, long standing fever etc. and they vary by person and condition. They are often neglected by public due to lack of awareness, various misconceptions and also often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to dearth of trained rheumatologists, specialists who treats rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatological diseases are considered as nontreatable and are not generally covered by various insurance and reimbursement policies. Recent therapeutic advances have revolutionised the field and timely diagnosis with proper treatment will result in good clinical outcomes.
With the aim to raise the awareness regarding rheumatological diseases, the availability of newer cost-effective treatment for these diseases and also to raise the awareness on policy revision, Indian Rheumatology Association, the Professional Organization of Clinical Immunologists and Rheumatologists in India, declared April 2022 as Rheumatological Diseases Awareness Month. Various resources for patients are available at this link of IRA – https://www.indianrheumatology.org/patients.
One disease among these is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, commonly known as LUPUS. It is an autoimmune rheumatic disease where one’s own immune system fights against one's body, manifesting various symptoms. It commonly affects young females. Some of the symptoms include butterfly rash over the face, joint pain, fever, mouth sores, hair loss and it can also cause serious issues like kidney failure, low blood counts, stroke, psychiatric symptoms.
When associated with another disease called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, lupus can result in recurrent abortions as well. Even though lupus is incurable, it can be well controlled with timely diagnosis, proper treatment and patients can lead normal healthy life.
May 10th is observed as World Lupus Day and is sponsored by the World Lupus Federation, a coalition of lupus patient organizations from around the world, united to improve the quality of life for people affected by lupus. More resources can be found at this link - https://worldlupusday.org/about
So, let’s be all aware and informed about rheumatological diseases to recogniseit early and treat for a healthy life.
(The writer is associate consultant, Department of Rheumatology, KIMS Health, Thiruvananthapuram)