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Developing treatment for rare auto-immune disease


A Newcastle University researcher is aiming to develop an 'urgently-needed' treatment package for people with a severe but little-known auto-immune condition that makes it difficult for sufferers to cry and swallow.

Specialist occupational therapist Kate Hackett has been awarded a four-year training fellowship of £176,000 from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK to develop an evidence-based package of treatment for people with Sjögren’s syndrome.

Sjögren’s syndrome is a condition that mainly affects the glands that produce saliva and tears, causing a dry mouth and eyes. It also leads to extreme fatigue, and other internal organ involvement.

It’s estimated that half a million people in the UK have Sjögren’s syndrome, which most commonly affects women aged 40-60.

“As well as the classic symptoms of dry eyes and mouth, fatigue and muscle and joint pain, people with the condition have great difficult in carrying out everyday activities such as eating and shopping,” explained Ms Hackett. “The degree of disability is similar to those affected by chronic fatigue syndrome. However, patients often receive little help with managing their daily activities, which is in stark contrast to those with chronic fatigue.

“Current drug treatments may help with some of their physical symptoms, but do little to improve their ability to manage their everyday lives. Therefore there is an urgent need to develop an effective treatment to improve their quality of life.”

As part of her study Ms Hackett will investigate current treatments, and collect the views of patients, carers and healthcare about what would improve their quality of life.

By the end of the fellowship she will have developed a treatment package that will aim to enable patients to effectively manage their daily activities and enjoy a better quality of life, as well as a manual to train health professionals how to deliver it.

(Press release courtesy of ARUK)

published on: 31 July 2013