Lupus is a complex, chronic inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks its healthy cells, tissues and organs. A healthy immune system produces antibodies that help fight and destroy viruses, bacteria and other foreign bodies.
Lupus is characterised by flare-ups and remissions. The signs and symptoms will depend on which part of the body is most affected.
Sinah Mfolo was diagnosed with lupus, but the road to her diagnosis and treatment was not an easy one.
Mfolo, like many others, battled to get to the bottom of what ailed her, and misdiagnosis meant that she lost valuable time during which she could have been treated.
“It was hard, I thought I was dying because I didn’t really know what was wrong with me and my condition kept deteriorating” said Mfolo
Mfolo has been living with lupus for 20 years and says today it’s still a struggle.
“I had to leave my job last year because I wasn’t coping. I can’t walk or stand for long hours and I’m sick all the time. I depend on the disability grant to survive,” she says.
Common lupus symptoms include extreme fatigue, pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, a butterfly rash that covers the cheeks and nose, dry eyes, confusion, anaemia and fever.
In South Africa, there is little awareness about the disease, Lupus Drive founder, Pontso Moiloa, said: “The disease is still foreign to us. There’s not enough research around this disease in South Africa, we’re trying to establish more. A lot of mystery still surrounds who gets it and how it starts.”
A 2018 study found that the chronic auto-immune condition, systemic lupus erythematosus lupus, is a leading cause of mortality in females which until now has gone largely unrecognised.
There’s no time like the present to educate yourself about the disease: May is Lupus Month and May 10 was World Lupus Day.
Much needs to be done, when it comes to research, support and government policies, around lupus, according to Lupus Drive, a non-profit organisation.
And although there is no known cure, a South African nutritional consultant says pursuing a healthy lifestyle may help.
Vanessa Ascencao says eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and high quality supplements and medical support may help combat the deadly symptoms of lupus.
She suggests these tips for good health:
* Avoid fried, oily and processed foods and eat less red meat, dairy and sugar.
* Choose fresh, organic and unprocessed foods and eat more vegetables, especially dark leafy greens.
* Increase your intake of fresh fruit, including berries and pomegranates (high in antioxidants).
* Eat foods rich in omega 3 such as wild-caught salmon or tuna and choose a potent supplement such as Purest Omega 3. Eat lots of healthy fats such as avocado, seeds, nuts and olive oil.
* Try probiotic foods such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut and use bone broth in soups.
* Use herbs, spices and herbal teas or choose a potent green tea extract like Origine 8.
* Choose quality iron and vitamin B and D supplements to boost immunity, energy and concentration.
* Exercise to help reduce stress and improve joint health, and sleep at least eight hours a night.
It’s worth remembering that the longer lupus goes unrecognised, the more debilitating it is to manage.