Rheumatological diseases are more than a hundred conditions that affect the joints, muscles, various internal organs like kidneys, lungs, etc., which lead to disabling pain, disability, mental agony, poor quality of life and can sometimes be life threatening.
These diseases include various autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, vasculitis which are caused by the immune system attacking its own body and several other rare diseases. They affect all age groups, regardless of gender, and about 2-3% of the Indian population suffers from these diseases.
Common symptoms of rheumatological diseases are joint pain and swelling, muscle aches, skin rashes, hair loss, persistent fever, etc. and they vary by person and state. They are often overlooked by the public due to lack of awareness, various misconceptions and often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to lack of trained rheumatologists, specialists who treat rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatological diseases are considered incurable and are generally not covered by the various insurance and reimbursement policies. Recent therapeutic advances have revolutionized the field and prompt diagnosis with proper treatment will result in good clinical outcomes.
With the aim of raising awareness about rheumatological diseases, availability of new cost-effective treatments for these diseases and also raising awareness for policy review, Indian Rheumatology Association, Professional Organization of Clinical Immunologists and Rheumatologists in India, has declared April 2022 Rheumatology Awareness Month. Various resources for patients are available at this IRA link – 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 usually affects young women. Some of the symptoms include butterfly rash on face, joint pain, fever, mouth sores, hair loss and can also cause serious issues like kidney failure, low blood count, accident cerebrovascular disease, psychiatric symptoms.
When combined with another disease called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, lupus can also lead to recurrent abortions. Even though lupus is incurable, it can be well controlled with prompt diagnosis, proper treatment, and patients can lead healthy and normal lives.
May 10 is celebrated 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 of those affected by lupus. More resources can be found at this link – https://worldlupusday.org/about
So, let’s all be aware and informed about rheumatological diseases to recognize them early and treat them for a healthy life.
(The author is Associate Consultant, Department of Rheumatology, KIMS Health, Thiruvananthapuram)