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Lupus Awareness Month targets Hawaii youth

by Shelly Awaya, News editor


The Hawai‘i Lupus Foundation (HLF) is holding its first-ever charity walk on October 9 to promote educating Hawai‘i’s youth during National Lupus Awareness Month. The event will include free goodie bags, refreshments, and musical entertainment by local music group Epic Session and local solo guitarist Jon Yamasato.

“Shine a Light on Lupus” is the foundation’s key event during October. As part of its 30th anniversary in Hawai‘i, HLF’s goal for the walk is to inform community members so that they become part of a “Lupus Literate Hawai‘i” by raising funds to support educational lupus youth programs.

“Since lupus is such a difficult disease to diagnose, it is so important to educate people and raise the level of awareness of lupus,” said HLF Board President Edmund Kajiyama. “Together, we will not only create awareness, but we will ultimately find the cure for lupus.”

Lupus is a chronic disease that causes the body’s immune system to form antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs.

A lupus diagnosis often requires a patient to go through several tests and evaluations of his or her symptoms and medical history, and it often takes years because lupus has symptoms that mimic other diseases:

· A butterfly rash that covers the cheek and nose area
· Muscular weakness
· Fatigue
· Low-grade fever and chills
· Joint and muscle pain
· Depression
· Sensitivity to light

“ There is no cure for lupus, so early detection and treatment is vital to preventing lupus’ often debilitative and sometimes deadly consequences,” Kajiyama said.

The three forms of lupus are discoid lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, and drug-induced lupus.
Discoid lupus is limited to rashes that often appear on the face, neck, or scalp.

Systemic lupus is usually the more severe form of lupus. It causes inflammation in organs, joints, and tissues, which can lead to organ failure or death.

Drug-induced lupus occurs after the use of certain prescribed drugs. Drugs commonly connected with drug-induced lupus include high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythm medication.

HLF estimates that approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people in Hawai‘i, about .07 percent of the population, have lupus. The disease primarily affects women ages 15 to 45, although men and children can also have lupus. It is found more often in people with Asian, African, Hispanic, or Polynesian ethnicities.

“ Because Hawai‘i is such a unique place with a tremendous amount of ethnic and cultural mixture,” said HLF Executive Director Sharleen Oshiro, “the number of people in Hawai‘i with lupus is slightly higher than the national average.”

“ Nationally, one out of 185 people have lupus. It attacks more people than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and leukemia, combined,” Oshiro said.

According to U.S. Census records, Hawai‘i’s population is estimated at 1.3 million people—that means one out of every 130 people in Hawai‘i have lupus.

Oshiro said it’s important to educate the community about lupus, especially the youth, because members and volunteers can only do so much in helping to spread the word. Having more youth programs will enable more voices to be heard, and create a larger member base.

Oshiro also said the foundation is always looking for more members and encourages volunteers to come in and help in whatever way fits their schedules and interests.

With a new improved Web site being constructed, HLF will be able to reach even more potential volunteers or members and share research and support group information.

“ Donations are greatly appreciated too,” Oshiro added. “More research can be done with more funding, so a cure can eventually be found, and it also helps keep our support groups running.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the “Shine a Light on Lupus” walk should visit, or call the Hawai‘i Lupus Foundation at 538-1522. The walk starts at 6 p.m. from Ala Moana Beach Park’s McCoy Pavilion.



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