The United Kingdom’s first set of guidelines for care of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been published by researchers at the University of Birmingham.
Produced for a range of healthcare professionals, including rheumatologists, clinical nurse specialists, nephrologists, immunologists, dermatologists, emergency medicine practitioners and general practitioners (GPs), the guidelines establish the correct methods for the diagnosis, assessment, monitoring, and treatment of patients with mild, moderate, and severe lupus.
“Lupus can affect any part of the body and can be difficult to diagnose and treat,” Caroline Gordon, MD, professor of rheumatology at the university and a lupus expert, said in a press release. “It is more common than many people realize, has a major impact on the health and activities of individuals with the disease and it is associated with a significant risk of dying prematurely — reducing average lifespan by about 25 years.”
“This guideline is essential because it provides advice on how to diagnose the condition and then how to assess the disease and determine what type of treatment will be most suitable, whether people have common manifestations such as skin rashes and arthritis, or less common but potentially more serious problems such as kidney disease,” she said.
The guidelines are useful as the document conveys the appropriate manner in which patients should be monitored for improvement in condition or further deterioration. It helps guide healthcare professionals treat lupus patients with common symptoms, such as skin rashes and arthritis, as well as more severe problems that are less common, such as kidney disease.
The guidelines also outline a number of ways patients can be treated so they rely less on steroids for patients to deal with the symptoms. It also details information on how to treat patients who don’t respond to conventional therapies.
“As a result of this guideline I would expect that patients will experience measurable improvements in care,” Gordon said. “With earlier diagnosis and more appropriate treatment we should see more rapid resolution of symptoms, reduction in disease flares and improvements in the quality of life of patients, with less long-term complications of the disease and its treatment and improved survival rates.”
“Since being diagnosed in 1975, I’ve spent what must amount to years in hospitals and I take a massive amount of medication,” Yvonne Norton, a lupus patient representative of the Guideline Working Groups, said in a LUPUS UK press release, written by Paul Howard. “I can’t fault the doctors who’ve treated me but it would have been so much better and easier for them, and me, if there had been a guideline to show the right path for them to take.”
“The diagnosis and treatment of patients with lupus in the UK has often been inconsistent, with those seeking a diagnosis often facing delays of several years and experiencing uncertainty about their treatment. We hope that the implementation of the guideline will reduce the current diagnosis times and result in earlier access to appropriate treatment, reducing flares and, ultimately, giving a better quality of life for patients,” said Chris Maker, CEO of LUPUS UK.