More lupus awareness

SUSAN Calland finds it hard to believe so few resources are put towards research on lupus, when an estimated 20,000 Australians are affected.

So she and colleague Michelle Hammond, from Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders Wellbeing Lupus Research have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness about it.

Supported by North Coast Area Health Service and the Lupus Association of NSW, the team held a conference last week, focusing on the impact of the inflammatory disorder on Aboriginal communities.

"Lupus is not a well known condition and is often misdiagnosed," Ms Calland said.

"There were women here today getting treated for tuberculosis before anyone thought of testing them for lupus. Because lupus mimics other dis- eases it's hard to diagnose."

The conference featured expert speakers, an address on Aboriginal medicines by elder Ozzie Cruze, and a DVD presentation by autoimmune specialist, Dr Reg Daniel.

Women are nine times more likely than men to contract lupus, particularly those aged 15 to 45 years, and certain populations, like Aboriginal and Asian people, develop lupus more commonly than others.

The disorder can affect a variety of organs as well as causing painful joints, skin rashes, especially on sun-exposed areas, a thinning of the hair and, even more seriously, brain conditions. In some people, the symptoms can be a skin disease or swollen joints, while for others it damages the kidneys or nervous system.

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