Once again we look at a situation that in some ways, we have created ourselves by inventing and applying treatments that keep patients alive long past previously “normal” expected survival times. This time it’s lupus victims (the disease afflicts mostly women, often starting in their child-bearing years) who, scientists are finding, are increasingly suffering brain damage and dementia as they grow older —but not “linked to expected causes, such as stroke or inflammation.” Recent work is focusing on how the newly discovered receptor crosses the blood brain barrier to have access to healthy neurons in the brain.
Aside from the physical suffering patients must live with, the costs to society of this disease are considerable. According to one source, lupus accounts for more than 100,000 hospital admissions in the U.S. each year, averaging 10 days and about $20,000 per visit. Kidney dialysis costs more than $40,000 per year in the U.S. Hip replacement surgery, which many lupus patients must have because of the side effects of high-dose corticosteroid therapy, costs about $30,000 per hip operation. Published research says lupus patients lose between 30 and 100 workdays per year. For more information on new lupus treatments, check out Medline.