05 July 2018

Former president Zuma's son died from lupus complications, but what is it?

It's been revealed that Jacob Zuma's son, Vusi, died from the inflammatory disease, lupus.

A family representative confirmed the cause of death of former president Jacob Zuma's son Vusi Nhlakanipho Zuma was related to complications from lupus. He died on 1 July 2018.

The condition, formally known as systematic lupus erythematosus, is characterised by chronic inflammation.

It causes the body's defence system to attack its own tissue and organs, such as the skin, kidneys, lungs and the brain, potentially leading to organ failure.

While lupus can affect anyone, it is believed to affect women more than men and, according to Lupus Research Alliance, women of colour are even more likely to be diagnosed with the illness.

There isn't a definite answer to how someone develops lupus, but researchers have looked into various factors in an attempt to answer the question of what actually causes it?

The Resource Centre on Lupus says that there is a combination of factors which may cause lupus to develop and this includes hormones, genetics and your environment.

Symptoms of lupus include:

  • A high fever
  • Bouts of fatigue
  • Pain or swelling in the joints (fingers, hands, knees, wrists, shoulders and hips) due to arthritis
  • Skin rashes, especially if it's the "butterfly" rash, officially known as the malar rash, which develops on the bridge of the nose and the cheeks due to sun exposure. Other lesions may develop on parts of the body exposed to sunlight.

Health24 has documented an extensive list of common and less common symptoms associated with the disease.

There is no cure for lupus, but specialists will prescribe medication to combat the symptoms.

Several celebrities have been diagnosed with the disease, including Toni Braxton, Seal and Selena Gomez, who recently had a kidney transplant – her close friend, Francia Raisa, was her donor. 

Image credit: iStock


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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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