A new group therapy programme to be introduced later this year will provide support for patients living with lupus, an official of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) has said. 
“Systemic lupus erythematosus, more commonly known as lupus, is a complex, chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs,” explained Dr. Samar al-Emadi, Head of the Rheumatology Division, Hamad General Hospital, HMC
Dr al-Emadi said the new support group will allow patients to talk candidly about their experience of living with lupus, asking each other questions and providing words of encouragement during difficult times. 
HMC is currently treating around 450 patients with lupus and has been at the forefront of lupus care in the region. Last year HMC introduced a specialist antenatal clinic for pregnant women with lupus. The first-of-its-kind in the Middle East, the clinic cares for around 55 pregnant women each year.
“Lupus has many different symptoms and affects each person differently, with symptoms ranging from a mild skin rash to serious complications impacting major organs such as the heart and brain. The symptoms of lupus can come and go and can change over time, making the disease difficult to diagnose and treat. The emotional effects of lupus can be as challenging to manage as the physical effects, so our planned peer-based group therapy will help enhance our patients’ self-efficacy in managing their condition,” explained Dr al-Emadi. 
While lupus develops mostly in women between the ages of 15 and 45, men, older people, and children can also be diagnosed with the disease. Dr. Omar Alsaed, associate consultant, Rheumatology Division, says a lupus diagnosis is life-changing and he notes that early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can significantly help control the disease.
Earlier this month the Rheumatology Section organised events at Hamad General Hospital and the Women’s Wellness and Research Center in recognition of World Lupus Day. Dr Alsaed said a key objective of the events was to educate members of the public about lupus and to correct common misconceptions. 
He noted that low awareness of lupus contributes to late diagnosis, which is both physically and emotionally damaging to those affected by the disease. May 10 is marked as World Lupus Day.