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New guideline on diagnosing and treating lupus

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The British Society of Rheumatology has released a new guideline aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune condition which can cause a wide range of symptoms, including rashes, fatigue, and joint pain and swelling.

Published in the Rheumatology Journal, the guideline covers diagnosis, assessment, monitoring and treatment of patients with mild, moderate and severe lupus.

It is aimed at rheumatologists and clinical nurse specialists in lupus, as well as nephrologists, immunologists, dermatologists, emergency medicine practitioners and GPs.

The guideline’s recommendations address the care of patients with common symptoms such as skin rashes and arthritis as well as those with less common but potentially more serious problems like kidney disease. It provides advice on how people should be monitored for evidence of improvement or deterioration, encourages the use of a variety of treatments to ensure less reliance on steroids to control symptoms, and provides information on which drugs to use for people that do not respond to initial treatment plans.

It also promotes the referral of patients with the most serious and difficult-to-control forms of the disease to specialised lupus centres with access to new therapies and multi-disciplinary teams.

Lead guideline author Caroline Gordon, a lupus expert and Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham, said: “As a result of this guideline I would expect that patients will experience measurable improvements in care.

“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.”

Lupus affects nearly 1 in 1,000 people in the UK and is associated with a significant risk of dying prematurely, reducing average lifespan by about 25 years.