In an effort to show that some health problems may in fact be lupus, the Georgia chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America will host its third lupus symposium in Cartersville on Saturday, Feb. 22.
To be held at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, the symposium is slated to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Gary Myerson, M.D. and Demir Baykal, M.D., will be “covering critical topics including Understanding Lupus, Lupus and the Heart, Exercise and more,” according to a press release. A question-and-answer period is planned to be held in every session.
The symposium is free for those living with lupus and their families.
Brenda Fleming, a Cartersville resident diagnosed with lupus, has attended past symposiums. She said they provide the necessary tools for those living with the autoimmune disease.
“The value is the fact that you get to learn from professionals. Usually there’s a guest doctor as a speaker that tells you how lupus affects whatever his ... expertise is, like if you’re a gastroenterologist, or a heart doctor or things like that. It really helps give you more insight into how the disease affects both systems,” she said.
Getting the latest information during a symposium helped Fleming personally in one instance.
“With me, it’s like, one of the symposiums that I’ve attended in the past, was I found out there was some medication that I was on that the latest research shows that I should not have come on, and it was creating problems that I didn’t realize that was the medication that was causing the problems,” Fleming said. “So in that respect, you know, it’s like, you’ve got this insight all of the sudden, ‘Well, geez, that’s why I’m having these problems. I need to talk to my doctor further about different medication and things.’”
According to a press release, lupus can be a potentially fatal autoimmune disease, and can affect any organ including the kidneys, heart, lungs, brain as well as joints, blood and skin.
Teri Emond, director of outreach at the Georgia chapter of the Lupus Foundation, said awareness is one of the most important aspects of the symposiums, and not only for those diagnosed with the disease.
“It’s not only people with lupus. Our ... outreach across the state is meant to educate not only people, but their families and friends, but also somebody who might have lupus,” she said.
Emond described one of the foundation’s primary focuses as women in their childbearing years who may feel unwell or rundown with aches in their joints or a low-grade fever, as well as potentially thinning hair.
“The earlier lupus is diagnosed the better prognosis there is for it, so that you don’t have life-altering, life-diminishing organ involvement like kidney failure or heart failure or chronic lung disease that is associated so many times with advanced lupus,” Emond said.
For their symposiums the foundation has altered the setup, Emond added. Now there is a greater emphasis on interaction between attendees to foster a sense of camaraderie.
“They come away feeling, first of all that they’ve got new knowledge, but the other thing that we really consider is camaraderie,” she said. “We redesigned our symposium as much as we can to have tables in the round so that they come in and sit down and talk to each other. ... The feedback that we had is that, no, I’m not alone anymore.”
Emond also credited the efforts of the local Cartersville Lupus Support Group, which meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Cartersville Medical Center. Having the support group involved in the symposium increases the connection between the national organization and area residents, she continued.
“They help us promote it up there, so that’s how we get people to come to it. ... It’s that connection that what’s going on up in Cartersville, they don’t care what we’re doing down here in Smyrna. ... In order to make that connection, somebody from Cartersville has to make that connection and we really, really rely on them to do so,” she said.
For more information on lupus and the Georgia chapter, visit www.lupusga.org.