New Users Registration  |  Useful Links  |  FAQ  |  Site Map 
Go Search


Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  2013 2015   Dec 2015 | Nov 2015 | Oct 2015 | Sep 2015 | Aug 2015 | Jul 2015 | Jun 2015 | May 2015 | Apr 2015 | Mar 2015 | Feb 2015 | Jan 2015 |
  2013 2014   Dec 2014 | Nov 2014 | Oct 2014 | Sep 2014 | Aug 2014 | Jul 2014 | Jun 2014 | May 2014 | Apr 2014 | Mar 2014 | Feb 2014 | Jan 2014 |
  2013   Dec 2013 | Nov 2013 | Oct 2013 | Sep 2013 | Aug 2013 | Jul 2013 | Jun 2013 | May 2013 | Apr 2013 | Mar 2013 | Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 |
  2012   Dec 2012 | Nov 2012 | Oct 2012 | Sep 2012 | Aug 2012 | Jul 2012Jun 2012May 2012Apr 2012Mar 2012 | Feb 2012 | Jan 2012 |
  2011   Dec 2011Nov 2011Oct 2011 | Sep 2011 | Aug 2011Jul 2011Jun 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011 | Mar 2011 | Feb 2011 | Jan 2011 |
  2010   Dec 2010 | Nov 2010 | Oct 2010 | Sep 2010 | Aug 2010 | Jul 2010 | Jun 2010 | May 2010 | Apr 2010 | Mar 2010 | Feb 2010 | Jan 2010 |
  2009   Dec 2009 | Nov 2009 | Oct 2009 | Sep 2009 | Aug 2009 |
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
  News Article  

Getting to know the many faces of lupus

  Tuesday, 10 l 05 l 2011  Source:  The Straits Times   
By: Poon Chian Hui

Association opens booth at TTSH to raise awareness of disease, increase membership

lupus-associationEVEN as more sufferers seek early treatment for the incurable ailment, the Lupus Association Singapore (LAS), which has helped raise awareness, needs a lifeline of its own. With an eye on arresting the problem of falling membership and grooming new people to take charge in future, it started manning a booth at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in March. It will continue to do so every first Wednesday of each month to recruit volunteers and disseminate information via DVDs and booklets.

It has more than 400 members, including patients, their families and doctors. But this is short of the all-time high of more than 700 members the 20-year-old association had several years ago, said its president Nancy Chin, 60. The main reason is that when a member dies, family members also tend to pull out of the association. To mark World Lupus Day today, it is also holding a two-day exhibition at TTSH, which started yesterday.

Lupus is a chronic disease where the person’s immune system attacks tissues and organs. It is not known why it happens, but hormones could be a factor as it mostly affects women of child-bearing age. Nine in 10 sufferers are women, and it is estimated to affect nine out of every 10,000 Singaporeans. But more sufferers are going for help early, said Dr Bernard Thong, who heads the department of rheumatology, allergy and immunology at TTSH. The hospital, which has the highest number of rheumatoid specialists, sees about 10,000 visits by lupus patients a year. Singapore has 38 such specialists, with 11 at TTSH.

“When I started out in the 1990s, I would see psychotic patients – they had hallucinations – and those with severe kidney damage. This is less common now,” said Dr Thong, referring to more patients going for early diagnosis and treatment. Of the 1,000 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus – the most common and serious form of the disease – registered at TTSH, only 6 per cent have ever had seizures and psychosis during the course of their illness.

Symptoms vary widely and include fatigue, hair loss, fits and a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose bridge. “Everyone is affected differently; that is why lupus is sometimes called the disease with a thousand faces,” said Ms Chin, who was diagnosed 30 years ago. Dr Thong said hair loss, arthritis and butterfly rash affect more than half the patients at TTSH. Medical treatment, such as the range of drugs used, has improved in the past decade. In the past, patients would get mainly steroids. Today, anti-malarial and cancer drugs are also used as these have the ability to stabilise the immune system, he added.

Ms Chin said that though lupus is incurable, it can be controlled well with medication. “We need to make changes,” she noted, citing how she has to swim indoors because the sun aggravates the condition and can cause her to break out in rashes. “But we can live a normal and healthy life.” An example is Ms Jennie Sokolik, 28, who found out she had lupus at age 16. The American continued pursuing a full-time

profession in banking and finance but her condition got worse “probably due to the stress”. In four years, she changed jobs four times. “I told myself that I can do it – but it turns out that I can’t,” she said. She has kidney complications and takes about seven types of drugs, including vitamins. She no longer works but Ms Sokolik, married to a chemical engineer, now volunteers at the LAS and enjoys taking up new hobbies such as photography. In fact, the disease has made her treasure the little things in life. “I would tell myself that I’m going to enjoy life, not spend it in depression,” she said.

  Ask the Specialists - Free Doctor Q&A  
    Advanced Care Planning
Take this opportunity to ask our experts on what advance care planning is all about, as well as the other directives.
    Previous Q&As
Check out our archive for all our previous doctor's Q&As!
*Latest Update: Speech and Language Problems in Children, Gynaecological Cancers: Cervical and Ovarian Cancers, Colorectal Problems, Screening, Risks & Symptoms
e-Appointment Online
Health Buddy App