What Is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. The immune system normally protects the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign material. In an autoimmune disease, like lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against itself.
Lupus is NOT infectious, rare, or cancerous.
Lupus is more prevalent than AIDS, sickle-cell anemia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined. LFA research data show that between 1,400,000 and 2,000,000 people have been diagnosed with lupus. (Study conducted by Bruskia/Goldring Research, 1994.)
Although the cause of lupus is unknown, scientists suspect that individuals are generally predisposed to lupus, and know that environmental factors such as infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, and certain drugs play a critical role in triggering lupus.
Lupus affects 1 out of every 185 Americans and strikes adult women 10-15 times more frequently than adult men. Lupus is more prevalent in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians.
Only 10% of people with lupus will have a close relative (parent or sibling) who already has or may develop lupus. Only about 5% of the children born to individuals with lupus will develop the illness.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms come and go and mimic many other illnesses. Some symptoms of lupus can be transient joint and muscle pain, fatigue, a rash caused by or made worse by sunlight, low-grade fevers, hair loss, pleurisy, appetite loss, sores in the nose or mouth, or painful sensitivity of the fingers to cold.
Although lupus ranges from mild to life-threatening and thousands of Americans die with lupus each year, the majority of cases can be controlled with proper treatment.
With current methods of therapy, most people with lupus can look forward to a normal life span.
While medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus, new research brings unexpected findings and increased hope each year.
The Lupus Foundation of America has nearly 100 local chapters directly providing patient services, education, awareness, and research in their local areas.
For additional information, please read the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus article on Lupus.org and Mayoclinic.org.
Do You Know the Signs of Lupus?
BY BETH WEINHOUSE
If you think you or someone you know is displaying at least four of these symptoms, it’s time to talk to a medical provider about your concerns. Your primary care provider can examine you and your health history and refer you to a rheumatology specialist for further diagnosis.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Are you in the process of being diagnosed with Lupus or another autoimmune disease?
Diagnosing Lupus has proven to be difficult over the years. Depending on who you ask, you might be told it took anywhere from a year to several years for a Lupus patient to be properly diagnosed. This is one of the reasons Lupus is called the “great imitator.” Lupus symptoms come and go, and they can mimic many other diseases.
Research study shows that patients average time span between initial symptoms and diagnosis was six years!
A Rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in connective tissue diseases, often diagnoses Lupus. Other physicians who might test and diagnose Lupus include your primary doctor, a dermatologist, a kidney specialist, heart specialist and more. Diagnosis is typically made through consideration of your symptoms and blood work results.
Treatments vary between patients, as there are different types of Lupus and it is said no two cases are alike. Depending on your symptoms and severity of Lupus, treatment may include steroids, anti-malarials, immunosuppressants, chemo, and other medications.