May is Lupus Awareness Month
May is Lupus Awareness Month and like any awareness campaign, the goal is to raise awareness regarding the economic, emotional and physical impact of this disease on sufferers. Approximately 5 million people worldwide have some form of lupus.
9 out of 10 adults with this disease are women. Women of childbearing age are most likely to develop lupus. Women of color are also more likely to be diagnosed with lupus. Unfortunately, the causes of lupus are not fully understood. However, scientists can agree that the cause is a combination of environmental, genetic, and hormonal.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease and like many other immune disorders, most lupus symptoms are invisible, which can sometimes lead to judgment from others who don’t understand the daily struggle or chronic aches, fatigue and organ dysfunction.
Your immune system is your body’s defense system from invaders such as allergens, bacteria, and viruses. Normally the body’s immune system is deployed to fight off these invaders. However, in the case of an autoimmune disease such as lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healthy tissues.
The inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different organ systems, including the blood cells, brain, heart, lungs, joints, kidneys and skin.
As lupus can affect different body parts, it can cause many different symptoms which come and go. Lupus also affects every person’s body differently, and so there are varying combinations of symptoms that are seen with this disease. No two cases of lupus are alike.
The most common symptoms associated with a Lupus diagnosis are fatigue, chest pain, confusion, dry eyes, fevers that last for days or weeks, headaches, memory loss, joint pain, stiffness, swelling, sun sensitivity, rashes on the body, the characteristic butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and the cheeks, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and shortness of breath.
Lupus is difficult to diagnose. There is no single blood test to diagnose it, and because its symptoms can mimic those of other diseases, vary in intensity and come and go—pinpointing it as the cause can be a long and stressful process. Discuss with your doctor about your individual symptoms. Your family physician with refer you to a rheumatologist who specializes in diagnosing lupus and managing its multitude of symptoms.