Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects both men and women. The disease usually occurs within the age range of 15-45 and is most common in people of Native American, African American, Hispanic and Asian descent. However, Lupus can occur in people of any race or nationality. Currently there are over 1.5 million people in the United States with the disease.
The types of Lupus are:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
- Drug-induced Lupus
- Neonatal Lupus
- Cutaneous Erythematosus
- Subacute Cutaneous Lupus
- Discoid Lupus.
The disease has been noted in individuals since the 10th century when the disease name of Lupus was coined. It was believed that the sores caused by the disease resembled bites from a wolf. (Lupine is the Latin word for wolf). People afflicted with the disease today will undoubtedly tell you that the sores they have do not resemble bites from a wolf.
The diagnostic process of lupus is difficult, even for experienced physicians. The disease often mimics other diseases, which is why Lupus is often referred to as "the great imitator." Lupus is also often diagnosed alongside other diseases. Common dual-diagnoses include Lupus/Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus/Sjogren"s Disease, Lupus/Scleroderma and Lupus/Fibromyalgia. Many sufferers of the disease can go through months of health problems before the root cause of their symptoms is discovered. Patients may be tested for thyroid problems, anemia, drug allergies, diabetes or even given brain scans due to chronic headaches or migraines before lupus is diagnosed.
Common early symptoms of lupus include:
- Achy joints
- Swollen joints
- Low grade fever
- Night sweats
- Rashes, including the familiar butterfly rash on the face
- Losing weight, 10 pounds or more without a change in diet or exercise
- Gaining weight, 10 pounds or more without a change in diet or exercise
- Hair loss
- Cold fingers or toes,often having a purplish hue
- Multiple mouth sores, often on the sides of the tongue
- Chronic headaches
If you have any of these symptoms it is important to visit your primary care physician for a correct diagnosis. While some of these symptoms may indicate lupus, there are other medical conditions that exhibit some of these same symptoms.
Life with Lupus
Life with lupus doesn't mean that you have to quit doing everything that you love. For many diagnosed with the disease, their lifestyles may only be changed by having to take certain medications to keep their disease in check. Many patients respond well to medication and may not even notice the disease unless they are experiencing a "flare."
While flares are a reminder that the disease is still lurking in the body, they may not appear very often in patients who are responding well to their medication. If a lupus patient does have a flare, they may need to rest more often, perhaps even taking time off from work, and take the best care of themselves as possible. Exhaustion is usually a large part of a lupus flare, as are painful joints and headaches.
But You Look Fine
One of the most dreaded comments that a lupus patient can hear is "but you look fine." As a lupus patient myself, hearing that drives me a little nuts. Of course I know I look fine, but if you could only feel what I do, especially when I'm having a flare up, you'd know that looks aren't everything! If this happens to you, take a deep breath, count to ten, and view this as an opportunity to educate people (gently, of course) about the disease.
If you happen to be a friend or a caregiver of a lupus patient, please understand that this disease is wreaking havoc on the inside of the patient's body. While you can't see it, it is causing pain, and in many cases, "brain fog" and confusion in the person it is affecting. It may be difficult for them to express how they are feeling because they may be agitated, tired and confused, usually all at once, when a flare up is in full swing. This may make your usually friendly and courteous loved one into someone akin to Jekyl and Hyde. A little patience and understanding (and sometimes some peace and quiet) can go a long way for someone suffering from lupus.
Remember, flares don't last forever, though sometimes it may seem that way!
Online Lupus and Disability Resources
- Lupus Survival Guide
Explanation for the newly diagnosed and their caregivers about Lupus. Tips about living with the disease, exercise and saying "no."
- First Lupus Symptoms
- Acupuncture for Lupus Patients
The philosophy of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in regards to treating the pain associated with lupus.
- Lupus Foundation of America
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