Lupus Awareness Month: There’s a Lot to Learn About Lupus

May 30, 2019 Providence Health Team

It’s sometimes called “the disease of 1,000 faces.”

The name fits all too well, considering lupus is a complex condition that can have many symptoms that differ from one person to another — 1,000 different symptoms for 1,000 different people.

But let’s get down to the one-in-a-thousand who matters most: YOU.

Learn the facts about lupus

If you’re wondering if you or someone close to you has lupus, here are a few things you should know.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease

Our beautiful bodies are capable of doing some very strange things. One of those things is when the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells and tissues by mistake. Lupus causes your immune system to be confused — it can’t tell the difference between unhealthy cells and your body’s healthy tissues. This attack on healthy cells causes inflammation, pain and damage to joints, organs, and skin.

It affects women more than men

Researchers aren’t sure why, but even though anyone can get lupus, women ages 15 to 44 are most at risk — about 9 out of 10 adults with lupus are women. And among women, lupus is most common in women of color: African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. African American and Hispanic women are most likely to have severe forms of lupus.

The cause of lupus may have something to do with genes, although you can’t catch it from another person and it’s not related to cancer.

It has many symptoms

Remember the “1,000 faces”? Here’s what that may “look” like to someone who has lupus:

  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Red rashes
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Swollen glands
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss

Those are just a few. Because the symptoms are so hard to pin down and vary so widely, lupus can be tough to diagnose. It can’t be identified with just one test, so it’s sometimes mistaken for other diseases. It can also take months or years to be diagnosed. Some of the tests used to decide it’s lupus include getting a medical history and taking blood panels.

It’s not preventable, but it’s controllable

At this time, there isn’t a way to prevent lupus or cure it (yet!). But it can be controlled by carefully following your treatment plan and by caring for yourself. If you or someone you know has lupus, here are some ideas to help control the disease:

  • Try to eat healthy foods as often as possible.
  • Exercise when you’re feeling up to it — and with your doctor’s OK.
  • Learn how to tell when your symptoms get worse and you feel sick (this is called a flare).
  • Figure out your triggers for a flare, such as too much sun, stress, fatigue, and cold or flu.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Make regular visits to see your doctor.
  • Most importantly, build a close circle of friends and family who’ll support you and be there for you when you need help.

Lean on your tribe to navigate

No sugarcoating here: Lupus is a chronic disease with a lot of challenges. Sometimes handling lupus flares while juggling work and family can be really stressful. Don’t go it alone. Along with your tribe, seek counseling or join a support group if need be. Reputable, online forums can offer encouragement, and organizations like the Lupus Foundation of America are packed with helpful information.

It’s Lupus Awareness Month
This yearly observance was created to call attention to the disease and its impact on millions of people. If you want to keep building your own knowledge of lupus and help bring more attention to the fight to end this disease, check out details here.

Now that you know a little bit more about lupus, be aware of the signs and don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you feel you’re at risk. You can find a primary care doctor in our provider directory. Or you can find one in an area near you: 

Alaska

California

Montana

Oregon

Washington

 

 

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