Frequently Asked Questions and Answers.
1. What is Lupus?
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus is chronic or lifelong autoimmune disease. The
immune system normally protects the body from various insults such as infections. With an
autoimmune disease the immune system does not function properly and can attack various
organs of the body. There are many types of autoimmune diseases; however, lupus is
considered one of the most serious because any organ or tissue in the body can be involved.
Lupus is not cancer. It is also not possible to “catch” lupus from someone else.
2. What causes lupus?
There is no one known cause for lupus, but many factors such as genes, infections and other
exposures, hormonal factors, uv light exposure and stress may interact over time, triggering the
immune dysfunction that leads to symptoms of lupus.
3. Who is at risk for developing lupus?
Anyone can develop lupus; however, lupus can occur more often in certain groups. For
example, lupus most often first develops in younger persons, between the ages of 15 and 44
years. Also, ninety percent (90%) of those with lupus are female and certain ethnic groups such
as Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic and some Asian and native groups are also at higher risk.
4. What are some of the symptoms of Lupus?
Lupus can cause different symptoms in different persons and so is sometimes called “the
disease of many faces”. Common symptoms can include skin rash, joint pain, fatigue (unusual
tiredness) and hair loss, mouth or nose ulcers or colour changes in the digits when cold.
However, Lupus can have severe complications including kidney failure, heart or lung
involvement, seizures or brain dysfunction, blood clots and recurrent pregnancy loss.
5. How is lupus diagnosed?
There is no one test for lupus. Lupus is suspected when persons have several of the signs or
symptoms that raise suspicion for the disease. Tests are then ordered to rule out other causes
for these symptoms and to detect patterns on blood tests that help confirm the diagnosis. This
usually includes testing for certain types or patterns of autoantibodies such as antinuclear
antibodies (ANA) or proteins that are associated with the disease. However, in some cases
diagnosing lupus can be difficult and may sometimes require testing over a period of time to
6. Is there a cure for Lupus?LUPUS FOUNDATION OF JAMAICA
There is no cure for lupus yet; however, many treatments are available that can control the
disease and prevent organ damage. Early and adequate treatment are important for the best
result. By achieving and maintaining good control of lupus, it is possible for most persons with
lupus to enjoy a full and normal life.
7. What can I do to manage my Lupus?
Regular follow up with your rheumatologist and adherence to your medications are important
for the control of your disease. Lupus treatments can often be very expensive; however, in
Jamaica, many medications are provided through the government health system or now attract
a subsidy from the National Health Fund. In addition, LFJ members benefit from special
discounts at several pharmacies islandwide.
Lifestyle measures such as protecting yourself from the sun, minimizing stress and maintaining
a healthy lifestyle such as exercising and eating wholesome meals are also beneficial.
It is also important to have a good understanding of your condition and treatment. Joining local
support Organisations such as the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica can help ensure access to
reliable information as well as a supportive network to cope well with living with lupus. Click
the highlighted link to find out more about member benefits or to join the LFJ.
8. Is it possible for me to get pregnant if I have the disease?
Yes. Many women with Lupus can have children; however, couples considering pregnancy
should first discuss this with their specialist before planning pregnancy in order to assess and
minimize risk of serious complications. Lupus should be under control and some of your
medications may need to be adjusted to ensure a safe pregnancy.
9. Will I pass on this disease to my children?
Not necessarily. Although there is a higher likelihood of developing the disease within families
the risk of someone who has a parent with lupus also developing lupus in their lifetime is less
10. Are there support groups that can help me with my disease?
Yes. There are support groups in Kingston as well as Montego Bay and other support groups are
being developed. If you are not close by to the meeting place, you can still participate in the
group by linking in remotely. For more information visit our Learning Centre at 7 Barbados
Avenue, Monday to Friday or Contact the Lupus foundation of Jamaica office line, helpline
(whatsapp/text), or via website, email, or social media for more information.
11. Are there Lupus specialists in Jamaica?LUPUS FOUNDATION OF JAMAICA
Yes. Rheumatologists are the main doctors specializing in the evaluation and treatment of
lupus; in addition, other specialists may be needed when specific organs are involved, e.g.
Nephrologists for kidney involvement or Dermatologists for severe skin involvement.
Appointments with a specialist can be scheduled privately or at low or no cost through
Rheumatology Clinics located at The Kingston Public Hospital, University Hospital of the West
Indies, Spanish Town Hospital and Cornwall Regional Hospital. Contact the Lupus Foundation of
Jamaica for help finding a Rheumatologist or other Specialist in your area.