Lupus 242 holds third annual health talk to educate members

NASSAU, BAHAMASOn Saturday, May 18, Lupus 242 held its 3rd Annual Health Talk at the University of The Bahamas. Educating the public about lupus is one of the major goals of the local non-profit organization. The group also provides support and information for persons in The Bahamas living with the illness.

More than 40 persons attended the event, featuring presentations by three guest speakers—Rheumatologist Dr. K. Neil Parker, dentist Dr. Shamika Strachan, and physiotherapist Mr. Sheldon Prince. Topics ranged from Oral Care for Lupus Patients, Physiotherapy and Lupus, and Treating Lupus Nephritis. Speakers gave detailed presentations on each topic and answered questions at the end of each session.

According to Dr. Strachan, mouth sores develop in 40-50% of lupus patients. She encouraged patients to be aware of the different abnormalities that may occur in the mouth as it relates to lupus.

“It is important to note that all mouth sores are not caused by lupus. Mouth lesions can be caused by various things such as stress, medications, trauma, oral cancer and certain foods,” Dr. Strachan explained. “Diagnosis of a suspected lupus-related mouth lesion should not be made by clinical findings only, especially without the patient having a lupus history.”

Physiotherapist Sheldon Prince spoke to attendees about managing inflammation and protecting their joints through physiotherapy. He recommended that lupus patients consider physiotherapy as a viable treatment option for managing pain and other ailments brought on by the illness.

“Approximately 60% of lupus patients describe muscle pain, weakness and tendencies, and about 90% have evidence of arthritis associated with joint problems,” Prince said.  “When a lupus patient comes to see a physiotherapist, we manage the inflammation and the principles of joint protection, recommend the appropriate exercise, and other coping techniques.”

Rheumatologist Dr. K. Neil Parker indicated that more than half of his patients are affected by lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).

According to Dr. Parker, in the early stages of lupus nephritis, there are very little signs to indicate that anything is wrong with the patient. He outlined the six stages of lupus nephritis along with the treatment options based on the stage of the disease.

“The recommendation of treatment for the person with lupus nephritis is to reduce remission. We shut the disease down and we treat it aggressively. Cellcept is an immunosuppressant used especially for lupus patients with signs of kidney disease,” he said. “The damaging of the kidneys with lupus nephritis is very common. In a person who has lupus nephritis as many as 5 out of 10 of them will have kidney disease.”

Dr. Parker said an alternative treatment option is called Cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug used to suppress the immune system and treat lupus patients with nephritis. This is followed by maintenance therapy, where the condition is brought under control.

Shonalee Johnson, Vice President of Lupus 242, was pleased with the turnout at the event and the amount of questions raised during the Health Talk.

“We encourage persons to ask questions and to seek the information needed to learn how to manage the illness. It’s particularly important for our members to have access to the professionals in various fields to discuss health challenges that they may face now or in the future,” she explained.

Participants were also able to have free health screenings, free mini massages and were entered to win raffle prizes. Event sponsors included the University of The Bahamas, Aliv, John Bull, and Dean’s Refrigeration.

For more information on Lupus 242, visit www.lupus242.org , email lupus242@outlook.com or follow the group on Facebook or Instagram @lupus242.