Doctors plan to unmask 'disease in disguise'

  • @jeremylaurance
A "chameleon" disease which affects up to 30,000 people in the United Kingdom - nine out of 10 of them women - is being misdiagnosed because of its capacity to disguise itself.

The Arthritis and Rheumatism Council yesterday launched a campaign to improve awareness of the little-known disease, called Lupus, which can cause kidney failure, destroy joints and trigger miscarriage. Misdiagnosis prevents early treatment which is essential for patients' survival and quality of life.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks itself and symptoms can mimic those of diabetes, multiple sclerosis or even schizophrenia. Many patients are referred to rheumatologists because GPs think they have got arthritis.

Symptoms of lupus range from joint and muscle pain to heart problems, ulcers, fever and rashes. Almost a third of patients develop kidney disease.

Treatments are more successful than 20 years ago when high-dose steroids were prescribed causing serious side effects. Today the same drugs are used in lower doses and deaths have fallen and quality of life improved but the earlier treatment starts the better the chances of success, the charity says.