Healthy Living

The Survival Rate of Lupus is Steadily Improving

The Survival Rate of Lupus is Steadily Improving

A variety of diseases and conditions prevalent today have had their fair share of extensive research and advocacy work done in hopes of finding a cure.  From serious conditions such as muscular dystrophy to cancer, medical professionals and researchers have joined forces in order to combat these said health conditions.  As can often be the case, however, the success in terms of slowing the respective mortality rates of each disease can be a rather slow process. 

A multitude of fiscal and logistical hurdles stand in the way, and prove to be truly defining factors in terms of these health conditions’ success, which is the case of systemic lupus erythematosus. In recent years, the mortality rate for the systemic lupus erythematosus has seen a slight improvement, however the disease's rate is much higher relative to all other causes of death.

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Much of this comes as a surprise for specialists who have exclusively worked with systemic lupus erythematosus.  When discussing the condition and the death rate associated with lupus, Dr. Ram R. Singh from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) stated that, “Based on our experience in the clinic and according to previous reports showing improvement in the short-term (five- to 10-year) survival in lupus, I was expecting to see a greater decrease in lupus mortality rate over time… So, I was surprised to find that lupus mortality rate has decreased only 24% in a 46-year period, whereas mortality from all other causes has decreased 44% in the same 46-year period.”  Despite the progressive research efforts in the past few years, systemic lupus erythematosus has remained at this steady improvement in terms of mortality rates.

The important finding was the result of a nationwide study that observed both the systemic lupus erythematosus mortality rates and the other causes of death in the United States.  The finding that relates the two exposed a rather interesting reality, as the difference between both mortality rates is quite substantial.  Dr. Singh commented on this phenomenon by saying, “I was most disturbed by the finding that [the] lupus death rate relative to [the] death rate due to all other causes [the ratio] is actually 35% higher in 2013 than in 1968.” 

In order to better understand what has changed over the span of time, Dr. Singh and his colleagues observed the death rates between patients both diagnosed or not diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus over a 45 year span.  The study took into account a variety of important factors in terms of populations, of which included different ethnic backgrounds, gender, as well as region. 

With the study mentioned above, the primary data point that the research team focused on was a variable known as age standardized mortality rates, or ASMRS.  The result of the study showed that the age standardized mortality rates for individuals diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus  decreased by 24.5 percent from the year 1968 to 2013.  This result looked at a population size totaling 100,000 from the starting point to the end point of the data analysis.  The age standardized mortality rates of the individuals without systemic lupus erythematosus, however, came out with a decline from the same time period of 43.9 percent (over double that of individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus). 

After further investigation following the results, it was discovered that the death rates proved to be higher in women relative to men, with all ethnic backgrounds being considered.  Another finding showed that the risk for systemic lupus erythematosus was higher in the Northeastern region of the United States, a result that may help in terms of how the condition is treated.  This very well could have to do with certain characteristics of the environment in the aforementioned region of the nation. 

One of the key findings following the research of the mortality rates of lupus included the result that showed individuals aged 65 or older were three times as likely to be diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus relative to the younger population.  In terms of the various groups with higher rates of mortality related to lupus, Dr. Singh stated that, “Non-white persons and older individuals with lupus have a relatively higher risk of death from lupus and may need additional attention.”

What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a type of autoimmune disease, which becomes prevalent in patients when the body is attacked by the immune system, due to its inability to detect foreign objects.  There are various types of lupus, however systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common of them all.  In the United States, over 1 million individuals are said to be diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, but the statistic may very well be higher due to certain cases that go unnoticed.

In regards to the symptoms that are often associated with systemic lupus erythematosus, they will include joint pain, tiredness, blood-clotting problems, headaches, rashes prevalent on the cheeks and nose, hair loss, severe weight loss, as well as an experience by which the fingers turn either white or blue upon getting cold (the often tingly sensation is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon).  Other common symptoms that come with a diagnosis systemic lupus erythematosus can vary from one patient to another, however they will often depend on the specific region within the body by the disease is affecting.

Lupus presents a variety of difficulties when it comes to its diagnosis.  This is due to the fact that systemic lupus erythematosus shares some key symptoms as other health conditions.  Because of this, specialists are faced with an inherent challenge when diagnosing lupus, as it is much harder to pinpoint whether or not the patient has something else.  When it comes to actually testing for lupus however, no specific method is in place. This being said, medical staff will often take either urine or blood tests, as well as look at other key signs that may lead to a patient's diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. 

The future for patients with lupus

The study mentioned highlights the fact that lupus is indeed improving in terms of its respective mortality rates in the United States, however it has a long way to go.  This was ultimately discovered when a survey showed that the decline in mortality rates over time was nearly half that of all other causes of death in the U.S.  As the research efforts suggest, this finding was the result of a multitude of contributing factors.

In order to uncover these said factors, the study led by Dr. Ram R. Singh from the University of California Los Angeles looked at the demographics of patients with and without systemic lupus erythematosus.  This research took into account the race, ethnicity, as well as the gender of these patients whom either had been diagnosed with lupus or not.  The hope for the study was to determine why it was that the mortality rates for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus was still much higher (roughly double) that of deaths cause for other reasons in the United States.  One of the key discoveries following the completion of the research was that the mortality rates were higher in the northeastern region of the states, and that the rates proved to be higher for non-Caucasian individuals as well.