After Pushkar's death, lupus scares women in capital

 Sunanda Pushkar’s death was due to drug overdose, confirmed an autopsy report. Her story, however, triggered a series of inquiry at hospitals about a rare disease called lupus, which generally affects women.

Pushkar was diagnosed with this chronic disease, according to a leaked medical report that was widely reported by news media in the last four days. Doctors say lupus in many ways is one of the most fundamental of betrayals.

It’s an often life-long autoimmune disease in which immune factors, called autoantibodies, mistakenly turns its force against healthy organs, instead putting up a fight against outside invaders like bacteria and virus. Some of the symptoms of this rare disease resembles to those found in rheumatoid arthritis.

On last Sunday, a 35-year-old woman was worried that she had lupus. “This woman walked up with her husband. She had mild swelling on hands and she looked very worried,” said Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Orthopaedic Surgeon, Apollo Hospital.

He informed that due to widespread reporting on fatality of lupus, many women patients looked anxious. “Like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus is another human body disorder that affects the normal functioning of joints, increasing the risk of immobility and fractures,” said Sharma, indicating that an early diagnosis is important because lupus could be mild to fatally severe.

Doctors say in India, a large number of people who suffer from it are left undetected and undiagnosed for a long time because joint pain and inflammation of muscular tissues which manifests in the form of butterfly-shaped rashes and often considered just another symptom.

“A patient usually presents with multiple joint pains, big and small, along with a butterfly rash over the nose and cheeks which is more evident on exposure to sun,” said Dr Mugdha Tapdiya of Fortis Hospital.

In its more severe form, lupus causes inflammation of the heart muscles, increasing the risk of stroke. While some patients who report vasculitis, a central nervous system (CNS) disorder due to inflammation of blood vessels in brain, have risks of psychosis, in which emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

Considering that Pushkar had confined herself to the hotel room in upmarket Delhi for over a day, doctors don’t deny that her reclusive behaviour could be because of lupus, since emotional disorders like anxiety and depression are known side effects of CNS.
Patients also reported to share their concerns about their emotional disorders. “When medical students are in the first year of their MBBS, they think that they have symptoms of various diseases they have read up on,” laughed Sharma, indicating too much that talk about lupus in media has triggered panic.

“But there is a need for proper diagnosis. Genes are among the dominant causes of this rare disease,” he added.

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