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Living With Lupus: When Your Body Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Houston (September 25, 2001) – It’s like a bad healthcare dream. You have vague symptoms that come and go – joint pain and swelling, rashes, a low-grade fever, sensitivity to light, maybe some pain when you take a deep breath. The symptoms occur together or by themselves, but sometimes you go months without a recurrence. Your family doctor can find nothing wrong, no viruses or bacterial infections. But, then you get transferred due to your job. You find a new doctor, and the frustration of being unable to find a cause of your symptoms starts all over.

The Disease

This scenario is similar to one experienced by someone suffering from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, better known as lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system – for reasons that are still not completely clear – attacks other cells in the body, causing everything from mild skin rashes to severe kidney problems. For several reasons, lupus is often difficult to properly diagnose.

The Symptoms

According to Michael Condit, M.D., a physician with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s main campus who is board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, lupus patients are all very different in their symptoms and complaints, and this makes lupus challenging to diagnose. “Some patients have mild symptoms that can be controlled with medications, and their lupus isn’t recognized for years. Some patients have a few severe symptoms, but it takes awhile to eliminate the possibilities that other diseases may be causing the symptoms.”

The Diagnosis

Also, symptoms aren’t always regular in their frequency and duration. “Not only is each patient different, but the symptoms in a particular patient can come and go, sometimes one at a time, and sometimes together. This makes finding patterns of symptoms very difficult,” explains Dr. Condit. “This is further complicated if someone changes doctors. Sometimes the symptom patterns are identified over several months or years, and a doctor who doesn’t know your history might not look for something chronic like lupus.”

The Research

On the research front, the whole study of immunology has opened up vast areas of possibilities. Research on diseases like AIDS, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, along with more research on lupus itself, has led to much better treatments, and the possibility of big advances in the coming years. Dr. Condit is optimistic about the ongoing research. He explains, “The human genome project, and research with stem cells and biologic response modifiers (substances that stimulate the body’s response to infection and disease) all have huge potential to help with finding better treatments and maybe even a cure for lupus. All this research is getting us to the point where we can maximize efficacy and minimize toxicity. That is key to targeting specific diseases without destroying other healthy tissues along the way. However, our current lab research is far ahead of any clinical applications that may eventually be developed.”

The Prognosis

But, according to Dr. Condit, the prognosis for lupus patients is better than ever. “In general the survival rate is much better. In the early 1950s, the 5-year to 10-year survival rates were under 50%. People usually succumbed to complications from lupus, like kidney dysfunction. But now, with immunosuppressants and other treatments for the serious symptoms, more than 90% of lupus patients have over a 10-year survival window,” remarks Dr. Condit. “Lupus is becoming one of those chronic diseases that people are learning to live with.”

For questions and concerns about lupus, contact your primary care physician or call Kelsey-Seybold Clinic at (713) 442-0427.


About Kelsey-Seybold

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic is Houston's premier multispecialty group practice, founded in 1949 by Dr. Mavis Kelsey in Houston's renowned Texas Medical Center. More than 850 physicians and allied health professionals practice at 40 locations in the Greater Houston area. Kelsey-Seybold offers quality medical care in 65+ medical specialties. The organization operates the largest freestanding Ambulatory Surgery Center in the state of Texas and offers state-of-the-art Varian TrueBeam and Varian Edge radiation therapy technology at a nationally accredited Cancer Center. An accredited Sleep Center, comprehensive laboratory services, advanced imaging and diagnostics, 24 onsite Kelsey pharmacies and one specialty pharmacy, and MyKelseyOnline, a secure web portal, are part of its comprehensive offerings. Kelsey-Seybold partners with major insurers to offer value-based commercial health plans. KelseyCare Advantage, a Medicare Advantage plan offered to Houston-area beneficiaries and affiliated with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, has achieved the coveted 5-out-of-5-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for eight consecutive years.

Kelsey-Seybold has been recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as the nation’s first accredited Accountable Care Organization and is home to a nationally accredited Breast Diagnostic Center and Endoscopy Center.

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 91. NPS is the global standard for measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction. An NPS score of 70 or higher is considered by industry experts to be "world class" and an indicator of overwhelming customer loyalty.

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