Digital Narratives of Living With Lupus: Lived Experiences and Meanings for Latin American and Latino Patients and Their Families

Tirsa Colmenares-Roa, Alfonso Gastelum-Strozzi, Erica Crosley, Yurilis Fuentes-Silva, Cristina Reategui-Sokolova, Claudia Elera-Fitzcarrald, Soledad Ibañez, Ernesto Cairoli, Bernardo A. Pons-Estel, Cristina Drenkard, Ingris Peláez-Ballestas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disproportionately affects Latin American and Latino populations, with worse outcomes compared to nonminority populations. Understanding patients' views is critical to provide culturally competent care. The objective of this research is to analyze lived experiences with SLE from comments made by Latin American and Latino patients, and their relatives and friends, on the public Facebook group “Hablemos de Lupus” (in English: “Let's Talk about Lupus”). Methods: Deidentified narratives posted as a reaction to the most popular resources shared by the page were extracted using the Facepager application. We conducted a thematic analysis under an interpretative medical anthropology framework. Results: Five core themes were demonstrated by social media comments: lived experiences with lupus, religious/spiritual thoughts, metaphors, heredity, and experiences of family and friends. Being diagnosed with lupus is perceived as a life-changing event. The fluctuating course of the disease causes uncertainty, and the perception of invisibility within the patient's social circle generates feelings of being misunderstood. Faith and spiritual thoughts are coping strategies. Patients use metaphors about the disease's meaning and their lived experiences (the purple butterfly, not belonging, bellicose metaphors) to communicate with others. Relatives and friends are impacted by their loved one's distress. Conclusion: Patients perceive lupus as an unpredictable illness and use metaphors to foster empathy and communicate their experiences to others. Religion is as important as medical treatment to cope with the disease, and the experience of having lupus extends to family and friends. Findings can be used to improve physician–patient communication and lupus education campaigns in the Latin American and Latino population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-549
Number of pages10
JournalArthritis Care and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


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