Mar 6, 2012

JOHOR BARU: Due to lack of awareness, thousands of Malaysians who have Systemic Lupus Erthematosus (SLE), better known as Lupus, usually learn they have contracted the disease at its final stages.
According to Malaysian SLE Association Johor chapter president Alimah Abdullah, about 40,000 Malaysians suffer from lupus and only half of them detect the disease at an early stage.
Lupus can affect any part of the body and is identified as a systemic autoimmune disease, which essentially means the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissue, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage.
Educating the public: Pagalavan (right) conducting a seminar about lupus at the Columbia Asia Hospital in in Nusajaya, Johor Baru.
“Not many people are aware of the early symptoms of lupus and this includes high fever, body aches and rashes appearing on the skin,” said Alimah adding that patients would usually head to a clinic for a normal medical check-up when they encountered such symptoms.
Alimah, when met during an SLE awareness campaign at Columbia Asia Hospital said the disease was a silent killer and the association aimed to increase awareness to allow early detection.
“In Johor alone, we have recorded a total of 2,000 cases and most of the patients are women,” she said adding that the Johor chapter was established by Lupus patients about two years ago.
“Most Lupus patients also tend to suffer from depression as many feel helpless when they are diagnosed with the disease.
“Through the association however, we provide counselling to patients to better educate them and build a support system for sufferers,” she said adding that the association also organised public forums on the disease.
Columbia Asia consultant physician and rheumatologis Dr L. Pagalavan, who is also the association’s advisor, urged those who showed early symptoms of lupus to get proper diagnosis.
“Those who suffer from lupus often go undetected as normal clinics do not have the proper equipment to conduct tests for the disease,” he said adding that many patients usually end up being misdiagnosed with normal fever or rashes.
“It is only when they come to a hospital that they know they have SLE,” he said.

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