African Women seem to be more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than we realized…
The autoimmune disease, Lupus, has garnered more attention in the news as of late. Part of this is because African women have become more aware of the effect Lupus has on their population. The initial thought was that Lupus and other autoimmune diseases were uncommon, even rare, in African countries. However, upon further study and greater awareness to the problem, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that targets different parts of the body. One person with Lupus may have completely different symptoms and problems than another person with the same, chronic illness. Treatment may have to be varied as well with some cases requiring chemotherapy. Lupus can also be very hard to diagnose, especially in underdeveloped countries such as many of them in Africa. In Nigeria especially, cases of Lupus seem to be rising.
Lupus is more common in women than it is in men. The varying autoimmune disease affects nine times as many women as it does men in America, according to the Lupus Research Alliance. It’s much harder to gather statistics for how it affects the African women population. However, it is estimated by the S.L.E Lupus foundation that 1 in 250 women in Africa have the disease in some capacity.
Lupus is an illness that comes in many forms. Unfortunately, many of the common symptoms are also similar to other diseases, making Lupus that much harder to diagnose. For instance, newsdeeply.com reported that a fever can be a common symptom, but often times it is confused for Malaria in Africa because Malaria is such a common illness.
Newsdeeply.com also cited that another problem with the lack of diagnosis is that many people will not go to the doctor if they fall ill. Their source, Dr. Olufemi Adelowo, says: “Most of my patients do not report early because of what we would call a spiritual attack. They do not think that [their symptoms] are caused by pathogenesis. They think someone is attacking them with some illness”. Because of this, Adelowo says, patients often don’t seek medical help.
Lupus diagnosis is improving in Africa, but still it’s been reported that there’s little support for those who have it. There are not many community groups for the disease throughout Africa leaving many patients, African women included, without emotional support.
There are many strides being made to help Africans throughout this process of finding and treating Lupus, but there is still quite a way to go.