Looking Back at the History of Lupus

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Lupus can be traced as far back as the author of the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates was a Greek philosopher born in 430 BC and amongst his chronicles are details of patients with the classic butterfly facial rash associated with the disease. (Sources: lupus.org.uk and medscape.com)

Rogerius Frugardi coined the term “lupus” in the 1200s. The word comes from the latin word for “wolf” and there is confusion as to why the animal has come to be linked with the condition. Some think the facial rash looks like a wolf’s bite, whereas others think it bears a resemblance to a wolf’s face.

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In the 1800s, Austrian doctors Ferdinand von Hebra and Moritz Kaposi were among the first physicians to recognize that lupus symptoms extended beyond the skin. Later that century, Pierre Cazenave, a French doctor coined the phrase lupus erythematosus, taken from “erythema” the Greek word for “blush.”

In the early 1900s, Canadian physician Sir William Osler wrote that as well as the classic symptoms of fever and rashes, other organs and central nervous system involvement could be part of the disease. Osler recognized that the disease was “systemic” in that it could affect different parts of the body.

Work at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in the 1940s concluded that lupus was a collagen disease and researchers at the Mayo Clinic in 1949 discovered that cortisone could be used to treat it.

Later work in the 1950s saw researchers identify antibodies responsible for the disease and help progress the diagnostic process.

Today, there is still no cure for lupus but there are effective treatments that can help patients better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

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