Dr. Janet Seabrook
It can be a silent killer and is one of the most complicated autoimmune diseases to diagnose. It can damage any part of the body, from the skin, to the joints, to the organs. It’s a disease that flares up, then seems to disappear before returning again. Unfortunately, it has no cure—it’s Lupus.
May is Lupus Awareness Month, and one of my social media followers suggested that I write an article to bring more attention to this condition that affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United States and 5 million people worldwide according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
There are two types of Lupus: Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). DLE mainly affects skin that is exposed to sunlight and doesn’t typically affect vital internal organs. SLE is a more serious form of Lupus that affects the skin and other vital organs, often causing raised, scaly, butterfly-shaped rashes across the bridge of the nose and cheeks that can leave scars if untreated. SLE can also affect other parts of the skin elsewhere on the body. (WebMD)
Because Lupus is a chronic disease, physicians work with patients to manage their individual symptoms. Most types of Lupus are best managed with a combination of medications, therapy and lifestyle changes. It is also important to remember that symptoms can morph over time so the condition must be consistently monitored to ensure appropriate treatment.
The good news is that, thanks to research and a multitude of medical advances, strategies to combat Lupus are much more plentiful than they were 20 years ago. Healthy lifestyle changes also help keep the disease under better control. For example, avoidance of sun exposure and paying more attention to managing stressful situations can help prevent lupus flare-ups. It is also recommended to avoid smoking to help with heart and lung health.
Here are a few more facts from the Lupus Foundation of America:
- Researchers have identified over 50 genes which they believe contribute to the development of Lupus.
- Lupus symptoms do not necessarily present all at once. It’s a constellation of signs and symptoms over time.
- People with Lupus have at least 2x the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to people without Lupus.
- Studies show that it takes an average of six years for people with Lupus to be diagnosed from their first symptoms of Lupus.
For more information about Lupus and activities surrounding Lupus awareness month, visit http://www.lupus.org/.
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