The facts about lupus
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus and they think that about 16,000 new cases are reported across the country each year. What do you know about this chronic illness?
Here’s some info from the experts.
What is lupus?
According to Lupus Foundation of America, Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks normal, healthy tissue. When you have lupus, something goes wrong with your autoimmune system causing the body to not be able to differentiate between antibodies, or “foreign invaders” like the flu, and the body’s healthy tissues. Since the body is confused about what to protect, it creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues. This can result in inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body. Click here to learn more about the different types of lupus.
Who can get lupus?
According to womenshealth.gov, anyone can get lupus, but certain ethnic groups like people of African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island decent have a greater risk of developing the disease. Lupus is most common with women in their childbearing years (age 15-45).
What are the common symptoms of lupus?
Unfortunately, lupus can look different from one person to the next. Understanding what lupus symptoms look like will better help you in the process. Talk with your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms listed from the Lupus Foundation of America including:
- Extreme fatigue
- Painful or swollen joints
- Swelling in feet, legs, hands, and/or around the eyes
- Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
- Photosensitivity (sun or light sensitivity)
- Hair loss
How is lupus diagnosed?
“Lupus can be difficult to diagnose,” says Dr. Dennis Levinson, rheumatologist at Advocate Health Care. “In fact, the chronic illness is nicknamed “the great imitator” because the symptoms that often look like other illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, thyroid problems.” Your physician will carefully review the following:
- Check your current symptoms
- Family history of lupus or other autoimmune diseases
- Complete a physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
What happens when you have a flare up?
These worsening of symptoms can vary from mild to serious and can come and go. Common triggers that cause flare-ups include:
- Ultraviolet rays from the sun or fluorescent light bulbs
- Certain medications
- Emotional stress, such as a divorce, illness, death in the family or other life complications
- An infection
- A cold or viral illness
How is lupus treated?
Lupus is a complex disease so treatment looks different for each person. Your rheumatologist will work with you to give you the best treatment plan for your health. Patients with lupus can live a long, healthy life.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.