The Law Offices of John Phebus

A failure to diagnose lupus

Lupus is a noncontagious autoimmune disease that occurs when autoantibodies cause inflammation in multiple parts of the body, including the lungs, heart, skins, joints, blood and kidneys. Since May is Lupus Awareness Month, Arizona residents may benefit from learning a few facts about the disease.

Although men can develop the condition, women make up the majority of lupus sufferers at 90 percent. However, lupus in men tends to damage the organs more severely. Lupus typically develops when an individual is between 15 and 44 years of age. The 10 to 20 percent of lupus cases that do develop during an individual's childhood can result in significant health issues more quickly than it can for those in other groups. Lupus can affect children and adults of all ethnic backgrounds and races. However, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders all receive lupus diagnoses two to three times more often than Caucasians.

When assessing a patient for lupus, doctors will examine the patients' symptoms, family and personal medical histories as well as the results of lab tests. Symptoms tend to be similar to those of other medical conditions and can repeatedly disappear and reappear over a period of time, which can make diagnosing the condition difficult. The presence of a malar, or a butterfly-shaped rash on the bridge of the nose and cheeks, is found on an estimated one-third of all individuals suffering from lupus. The rash may be the only symptom that is exhibited externally.

A failure to make a timely diagnosis of lupus can lead to a worsened medical condition. Not all such cases constitute medical malpractice, however. An attorney for a patient who has been harmed in this manner will need to demonstrate that the failure was a breach of the practitioner's duty to provide a reasonable standard of care.

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