More than 120 patients and their guests attended MUSC's inaugural Annual Lupus Patient Education Seminar Oct. 15.
The MUSC Lupus Erythematosus Research Group and its partners organized the educational event, that was sponsored by the Division of Rheumatology & Immunology.
The brainchild of Rheumatology Fellow Melissa Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., the patient education seminar helped to give patients the latest information about lupus to help them have the best quality of life possible.
The seminar, "Everything You Need to Know About Lupus," focused on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly referred to as lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs.
The underlying cause of lupus is not fully understood but it is known to occur 10 times more frequently among females than males and presents most often in individuals between the ages of 10 and 50. In South Carolina, between 1996 and 2003, there were 6,521 systemic lupus patients hospitalized. Lupus can affect people of any race or ethnicity, although higher incidences of the disease are seen in African Americans, with no known cure for the disease.
The seminar's lead speaker, Gary Gilkeson, M.D., vice chairman for research, Department of Medicine, said awareness, early diagnosis and treatment remain the best weapons in controlling and battling lupus. Lupus may affect many different parts of the body such as the skin, heart, lungs, brain and nervous system. Symptoms vary by individual; some of the most common include a skin rash — a "butterfly" rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, fatigue, mouth sores, skin sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss, joint swelling, and other more severe symptoms depending on which part of the body is affected.
"If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms, seek medical advice from your health care provider immediately," he said.
Information disseminated at the seminar included the latest knowledge in pathology, familial and genetic disposition, medical treatment options, the importance of diet and exercise, female reproductive health, clinical research trials and possible environmental influences on the disease. The event also provided a forum where patients and family members could ask questions in a supportive environment and have the opportunity to network with other patients and their families.
Mithu Maheswaranathan, College of Medicine student (Class of 2014) was instrumental in organizing the event and putting together a multidisciplinary program. After the seminar he received numerous emails from attendees praising the event, including one who added that the experience helped her not to feel so isolated.
Sharon Wolf, program coordinator with S.C. Clinical & Translational Research Institute Center for Community Health Partnerships, said the seminar was organized as a community engagement and outreach event. "As a medical and academic community, we acknowledge the importance of engaging patients and their families in all aspects of their health and medical care. As health is not static, we aim to empower patients by reaching beyond their average clinic or the traditional model of health care," she said.
For information, visit http://www.musc.edu/lupus, call 792-8997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.