A MOTHER has appealed for wider awareness of a rare and debilitating disease which led her "bubbly" young daughter to take her own life.

Janice Dunn said the public still knew little about Lupus even though an estimated 50,000 Britons, mostly women, have the genetic disorder.

Her daughter, Carolyn, took an overdose just three months after being diagnosed with the condition, aged 24.

Lupus attacks the immune system and can cause skin rashes, fatigue, depression and joint and muscle pain. It can also impair major organs including the kidneys, heart, lungs and brain.

Mrs Dunn, of Carrwood Hey, Ramsbottom, said: "It just reduced Carolyn to nothing. She was a bubbly type of person and when she got Lupus it just devastated her life."

Carolyn, who attended Hull University and wanted to work in human resources, "went into a horrendous depression" towards the end of her life, Mrs Dunn said. An inquest recorded a verdict of suicide.

Her ordeal began in May 1999 with back pain and aching joints but soon Carolyn lost her hair, suffered swelling in her face and could barely walk due to the pain. The most devastating effect of the condition was depression for which she was prescribed anti-depressant Citalopram.

Her mother said this played a key role in Carolyn's decision to end her life. Doctors admit Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as sufferers - aged 15 to 50 and mostly Afro-Carribean,Chinese and Asian - can at first show non-specific symptoms like weight loss and fatigue.

It was first thought that Carolyn - who died in February 2000 - had rheumatoid arthritis.

Even a full onset of Lupus is not always the same - some sufferers do not experience depression and treatments can range from skin cream to anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids.

Mrs Dunn said: "So many people suffer from it but we never hear about Lupus. It would help people to not always dismiss the first signs of it because it can lead to other things. A symptom of Lupus can be depression, a side effect of steroids can be depression and a side effect of Citalopram is suicidal tendencies."

The disease occurs because the immune system produces too many antibodies, molecules in the blood that fight bacteria, viruses and other harmful toxins. This leads to damaging inflammation throughout the body.

Caroline Morrison-Pinches, from Blackburn, said she suffered hair loss and waited six weeks before doctors diagnosed her with Lupus. The 50-year-old St George's Avenue resident has to wear the highest grade of sun block 24 hours a day as UV light can trigger skin rashes which leave a permanent scar.

It also caused her fatigue and depression but Mrs Morrison-Pinches said: "You have to be positive about it, you can live with Lupus."