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Building vasculitis awareness

Published:Thursday | April 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

While an awareness week dedicated to vasculitis has been scheduled to start Sunday, there are still aspects of the disease yet to be discovered.

Vasculitis, uncommon in Jamaica, is a group of diseases categorised by the size of the blood vessel(s) involved. That size is what sets each of the ailments apart.

Dr Keisha Maloney is one of three specialists across the island and she said most of the research done on vasculitis is carried out overseas.

"It's very difficult to perform research on a disease that is not common because in order to perform research, you need a relatively large number of people.

"For this reason, research is very limited in our population."

Although predominant among Caucasians, vasculitis is a condition that can affect anyone. It is referred to as a 'family of diseases' because the name encompasses more than 15 different ailments. The condition is an inflammation of blood vessels and, although medical practioners are uncertain of what causes vasculitis, it can be considered an allergic reaction, but more often than not, it is thought to be autoimmune.

  • Ricardo Lee Vasculitis Foundation

The Ricardo Lee Vasculitis Foundation, based in Jamaica, is working towards educating the public about the manageable but deadly condition.

The foundation was named after Olive Creary's son Ricardo who died from complications associated with vasculitis.

According to the president of the foundation, Dr Michael Banbury, vasculitis is associated with systemic lupus, a condition that is very common in Jamaica.

Treatment and medication are accessible in Jamaica. However, according to Banbury, the outcome is poor.

"The patients do badly," he said. "It is usually incurable but there is treatment we can give that will put the patient into so-called remission and (patients) can lead a normal life."

While diagnoses can be challenging, Banbury said doctors go overseas to study the condition.

"(They) go and specialise in this area (and) I think it will become less and less of a challenge."

For more information, visit http://www.vasculitisfoundation.org/ and http://www.ricardoleevasculitisfoundation.org/