Lupus, the Disease of 1,000 Faces

May is Lupus Awareness Month, a chance to educate others on the disease 1.5 million Americans live with.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue. It’s a mysterious disease that has been notoriously hard for the medical community to figure out because of its wide range of effects.

Lupus is not a contagious disease, but it is possible for a woman with lupus to give birth to a child who can inherit a form of the disease called neonatal lupus. There are four types of lupus, but the most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

SLE can attack any of the body’s organs and organ systems.

Most commonly, it affects:

  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Central nervous system
  • Blood vessels
  • Heart

Risk Factors

The Lupus Foundation of America states that “many (but not all) scientists believe that lupus develops in response to a combination of factors both inside and outside the body, including hormones, genetics, and environment.”

Other risk factors include:

Age: Symptoms of lupus are likely to occur between the ages of 15-44 years old.

Sex: According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, women are nine times more likely to develop lupus than men.

Ethnicity/Race: In the U.S., lupus is found in people of color more commonly than Caucasians. Studies show that lupus develops earlier and more severely among ethnic groups like Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and Latinos.

Family History: Those with relatives who have lupus are 5-13 percent more likely to develop it.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of lupus can range from mild to severe, with periods of dormancy and flare-ups. It is possible for the disease to be dormant for many years or even a lifetime. It’s been called the “disease of 1,000 faces” because of the way its symptoms can change, come and go, and imitate other illnesses.

  Common symptoms  Severe symptoms
Skin rashesSeizures
HeadacheThyroid issues
Weight lossGastrointestinal problems
Hair lossOsteoporosis
FatigueKidney inflammation

Treatment and Support

Although Lupus is a mysterious disease, there have been major strides in diagnosis and treatment. In the 1950s, lupus patients had a 5 percent five-year survival rate. Astonishingly, lupus has a 95 percent 5-year survival rate today.

The goal of treating lupus is to find the right individualistic approach to mitigate symptoms, protect the organs from damage, and keep the immune system from attacking the body. Treatments that have success with subsiding symptoms of lupus include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical steroid creams, and Plaquenil—an anti-malarial drug.

Every case and person are different and require a doctor’s direction for treatment. If you’re experiencing any of the signs of lupus mentioned in this article, call your doctor or stop by Albuquerque ER & Hospital.

Lupus can be a very lonely disease, but you don’t have to go through it alone. To connect with others struggling with lupus, click here to find a support group near you.

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Albuquerque ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

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