Unique health fair coming to Kauai

LIHUE — A unique nonprofit dedicated to helping people living with autoimmune disorders is coming to Kauai.

The Sjogren’s and Lupus Foundation of Hawaii will be hosting an educational seminar at Wilcox Medical Center on Saturday, March 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will feature talks from two medical professionals who have learned to live with Sjogren’s syndrome by managing their symptoms.

Dr. April Lewis, an optometrist on Kauai, and the foundation’s president and founder, Melaca Cannella a registered nurse on the island of Hawaii, will share their experiences with Sjogren’s and teach sufferers of autoimmune diseases how to improve their health through diet, exercise and stress management.

Lewis said raising awareness is crucial for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is important for those already diagnosed with autoimmune diseases to come together and build support systems in their community. But Lewis also hopes to spread the word to people who may have an autoimmune disorder but have not yet been diagnosed.

Lewis was diagnosed with Sjogren’s relatively late in life. After living with the disease for 30 years and thinking her fatigue and joint pain were normal, Lewis realized that her symptoms were caused by an autoimmune disorder and started taking steps to make herself feel better.

“It’s all about managing the symptoms,” Lewis said Wednesday. “First of all, I started moving more.”

Lewis explained that regular exercise is the most effective way to reduce the painful inflammation often caused by Sjogren’s and lupus, even though it can be painful for those with a connective tissue disease.

Diet is also important, Lewis said, pointing out that processed foods can contribute to the buildup of fluid in the joints that causes inflammation. Stress is perhaps an even more critical factor in maintaining quality of life while dealing with lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, according to Lewis, who said that “managing stress is huge,” because stress can cause joints to flair-up.

Tickets are $10, which includes lunch. Sign up by Feb. 13 at slfhawaii.org.

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