May is Lupus Awareness Month. More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus, but it is difficult to know how many people actually have this chronic disease because a wide range of symptoms exist and vary greatly from person to person. Lupus often goes undiagnosed.
Lupus Awareness May is Lupus Awareness Month. More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus, but it is difficult to know how many people actually have this chronic disease because a wide range of symptoms exist and vary greatly from person to person. Lupus often goes undiagnosed. What is Lupus? Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack normal healthy tissue. The immune system normally produces proteins, called antibodies, which work to protect the body from invaders such as germs, bacteria and viruses. In a person with lupus, the immune system creates autoantibodies which sometimes fight and destroy otherwise healthy tissue. The autoantibodies create inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body. How Does Lupus Affect the Body? Lupus can cause damage to the joints, heart, lungs, skin, blood, kidneys and other vital organs. It can also cause arthritis, memory loss, skin rash, hair loss, headaches, muscle weakness, fatigue, fever, seizures and photosensitivity. Who Gets Lupus? Anyone can get lupus, but it’s most common in women. More than 90 percent of people with lupus are women, although, it also strikes men and children. Women with the disease are most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45, however, the disease can also occur during childhood or later in life. African-American women are more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women. It is also more common in Latina, Asian and Native American women. How is Lupus Diagnosed? There is no single laboratory test. More than half of the people with lupus suffer for more than four years. Because lupus frequently looks like other illnesses, sufferers may visit numerous doctors before finally receiving the proper diagnosis. Unfortunately, late diagnosis leads to significant tissue damage, organ failure, disability and sometimes even death. When looking for lupus, a doctor will look for signs of inflammation such as pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function in specific areas of the body. The inflammation may be inside or outside of the body or both. Before making a lupus diagnosis the physician will review current symptoms, lab tests, medical history and family medical history. Is There a Cure? Not at this time. Even many of the medicines used to treat lupus symptoms were not designed for lupus patients but were borrowed from other diseases. Because these medicines were not developed to treat lupus specifically, there may be many harsh side-effects. Many lupus sufferers find effective treatments that minimize symptoms, help reduce inflammation and maintain normal bodily functions. Others live with daily pain, unable to perform normal everyday functions or hold down a job. Lupus sufferers who cannot continue working may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Medicare. Lack of understanding and awareness of the disease as well as the subjective nature of some of the painful symptoms cause many lupus patients filing for SSDI to be denied benefits. This is a big reason why raising awareness, as well as money for research, is so important. Find a Walk for Lupus Now event in your area to join in the fight.
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