BRIDGETOWN, Barbados(CARIBUPDATE/OCT 31, 2016) - Minister of Health, John Boyce says Barbados must step up its response to lupus as he raised concern that the rare disease has caused “demographic and epidemiological changes”.
“There is a need to focus on developing specific interventions and new health indicators to meet the new challenges,” said Boyce to local and international medical practitioners attending the International Medical Conference yesterday at Accra Resort.
Dubbed the great masquerader, lupus pre-dominantly affects females ages 15 – 45, attacking the central nervous system and multiple organs simultaneously.
According to Boyce, this was disconcerting as Caribbean families were largely matriarchal.
“Women are very often becoming heads of households and form a large part of the workforce, the significance, therefore, of the disease prevalence is that it bears direct correlation with loss of work and productivity,” said the Minister of Health.
Boyce added, “The chances of employment for affected persons are compromised due to their perceived frequent absenteeism”.
He went on to applaud the achievements of the Hope Foundation for its contribution to sickle cell and lupus research, particularly their launch of Lupus Diaries earlier this year.
He said, “This unique strategy centers around capturing the Lupus story, not only from the patient’s perspective but also from that of the medical fraternity, through diagnosis and treatment …
“This strategic approach will contribute to understanding the journey, based on the different accounts, which would be instructive in highlighting the challenges faced, the coping mechanisms employed and the institutional systems engaged to facilitate this enigmatic disease which will assist in making recommendations for the support systems that are necessary in the workplace and in our homes”, Boyce stressed.
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.
In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.