For Some, Lupus Can Be Mild, For Others It Can Be Life Threatening
Did you know around 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus—while countless more are not aware they have it? Family HealthCare Associates wants to take a moment during “National Lupus Awareness Month” to shed light on this complicated disease that (on average) takes six years to be diagnosed after symptoms first arise. Since lupus can have such a wide range of variables and symptoms, many will get frustrated in their journey to diagnosing and managing this disease—so let’s begin with understanding the basics, and then we can discuss how it can be treated.
What is Lupus, Anyway?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects around 150,000 Texans. It often leads to inflammation in various parts of the body, and affects skin, joints, and internal organs. A classic sign of lupus is a butterfly-styled rash across the cheeks and nose, as well as pain or swelling in the joints. Many will experience fatigue, and some people with lupus may experience discoloration in the fingers and toes. No one knows exactly what causes lupus, but it’s not contagious, so you can’t catch it, or give it to someone else.
Anyone can develop lupus, but certain demographics are at higher risk, such as women, people of color, individuals who suffer from other autoimmune diseases, and people who have lupus in their family. African American and Latino women (in particular) often get lupus at a young age and tend to suffer from more severe symptoms, like kidney problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Symptoms usually start in early adulthood and are easy to miss because people often experience flare-ups followed by long remission periods. If you think you may have it, here are some more common symptoms:
- Extreme Fatigue – 90% of people with lupus experience some kind of fatigue.
- Low-Grade Fever for No Apparent Reason – This can be a symptom of inflammation, infection, or an imminent lupus flare-up.
- Hair Loss - Some people with lupus lose hair by the clump. For others, hair thins out slowly. Lupus may also cause hair to feel brittle and break easily.
- Skin Rash – About half of people with lupus experience some form of skin rash.
If I Have These Symptoms, Does It Mean I Have Lupus?
Not necessarily as lupus shares a lot of symptoms with other diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis.
How Can Your Physician Help You?
Unfortunately, there is no single test for lupus, and no cure—so if you have symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about whether you have lupus, or a different health issue. Most people with lupus take medicines (such as immunosuppressants) to manage their symptoms. They also tend to work on strengthening their immune systems with exercise, nutrition, sleep, and reducing stress in their lives.
Living with lupus can be a roller coaster, so work with your physician to find the right treatment plan. The good news is that with the support of your family, and your physician at Family HealthCare Associates, you can learn how to live with your symptoms, and keep flare-ups at a minimum.