By Wendy Sarubbi | May 12, 2018 11:29 am

Sun exposure can cause serious health complications for lupus patients, so recently M.D. students joined a Central Florida lupus walk to help spread awareness and education about the problem.

Students doled out sunscreen, informational pamphlets and UV-sensing keychains made by Dr. Dinah Warner, the mother of UCF third-year medical student Lindsey Warner. Dr. Warner, a local dermatologist, lives with lupus. Items for the walk were donated by affiliated faculty, community physicians and a UCF nursing instructor.

Today, 1.5 million Americans live with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease with no cure. The illness causes the body to attack its own healthy tissues and organs, resulting in inflammation. And for people with lupus, the damaging effects of sun exposure are particularly pronounced.

“About two thirds of people with lupus are more sensitive to UV light exposure than those without,” said Christina Dai, a third-year med student. “This sensitivity can manifest as either a worsening of their skin condition or even cause systemic effects such as joint pain, fatigue and fevers.”

Lupus is particularly prevalent among underserved populations, where education about the disease is not as widespread.

“African-Americans and Hispanics do get the disease at a much higher frequency than Caucasians,” said Dr. Shazia Bég, a physician faculty member and rheumatologist who cares for patients at UCF Health. “And also when they get it, it’s usually more severe than when it affects people not of color.”

Dai and her classmates in the Dermatology Interest Group wanted to find some way to help spread awareness of this problem. They worked together to organize the walk event. Because lupus can affect so many parts of the body, including skin, Dr. Bég said a multi-specialty practice like the College of Medicine’s can help provide coordinated care.

“At UCF Health, we have all of the specialties that help take care of lupus patients, such as dermatology, ophthalmology, rheumatology and primary care,” she said.

Students said providing health information in community settings is about service and helping expand their clinical expertise. “As a future physician, it is really important to get out into the community and help educate people on how to be healthy because these are our future patients,” said Dai.

“Doing community outreach offers us the chance to interact and connect with people who are actually affected by the illnesses and diseases that we learn about and puts a face to the name.”

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