Providing Support for Those with Lupus

May 30, 2019

Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, professor of community medicine and population health at the College of Community Health Sciences, has started a support group in Tuscaloosa for people with lupus.

Payne-Foster created the group, which meets the third Thursday of every month at 5 pm at the College, six months ago. The group had its last meeting in May before breaking for the summer months. May is Lupus Awareness Month.

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. In severe cases, organ damage and failure can occur.

More than 90% of people with lupus are women between the ages of 15 and 45.

Payne-Foster said most of those currently in the support group are University of Alabama employees. She said the group meetings provide a confidential environment where people grappling with this chronic disease can listen to guest speakers, hear testimonials from others suffering with lupus, and receive education and informational materials about lupus.

Payne-Foster said the goal is to provide a caring environment where people with lupus, their family members and their caregivers can share their experiences, methods of coping and insights into living with lupus.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus – a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks – occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.

Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain medications or even sunlight. While there is no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms, which include fatigue, fever, joint pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, dry eyes, headaches, confusion and memory loss

Payne-Foster said the Tuscaloosa support group is part of the Lupus Foundation of America Mid-South Chapter, based in Nashville with groups also in Kentucky and Tennessee.

She said she wants to eventually expand the Tuscaloosa support group to rural Hale, Greene and Pickens counties. She said most lupus support groups are found in urban, not rural, areas.