Read my blog post on my personal battle with Lupus by clicking HERE
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
- Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.
- Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot "catch" lupus from someone or "give" lupus to someone.
- Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.
- Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
- An estimate of at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
- It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
- Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too.
- Women of color are 2-3 times more likely to develop lupus.
- People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
- More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
Because lupus can affect so many different organs, a wide range of symptoms can occur. These symptoms may come and go, and different symptoms may appear at different times during the course of the disease.
The most common symptoms of lupus, which are the same for females and males, are:
- extreme fatigue (tiredness)
- painful or swollen joints
- anemia (low numbers of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
- swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
- pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
- butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
- sun- or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
- hair loss
- abnormal blood clotting
- fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- mouth or nose ulcers
There are many challenges in confirming that a person has lupus and not some other disease. Lupus is known as "the great imitator," because its symptoms mimic many other illnesses. Also, lupus symptoms can be unclear, can come and go, and can change. Therefore, a lupus diagnosis is made by a careful review of:
- your current symptoms
- your laboratory test results
- your medical history
- the medical history of your close family members (grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins)
All of this information may be necessary for a doctor to make a diagnosis of lupus because, for a number of reasons, laboratory tests alone cannot give a definite "yes" or "no" answer.
The idea that lupus is generally a fatal disease is a big misconception. In fact, the prognosis of lupus is much better today than ever before. It is true that medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus. And some people do die from the disease. However, people with non-organ threatening aspects of lupus can look forward to a normal lifespan if they:
- follow the instructions of their physician,
- take their medication(s) as prescribed, and
- know when to seek help for unexpected side effects of a medication or a new manifestation of their lupus.
The progress made in treatment and diagnosis during the last decade has been greater than that made over the past 100 years. It is therefore a sensible idea to maintain control of a disease that tomorrow may be curable.
(Exerpt from http://www.lupus.org)
If you are experiencing symptoms of Lupus (or any other symptoms for that matter), talk to your doctor. Make your health your priority! Don't let fear keep you from seeking ways to get better.