The chronic autoimmune disease affects mostly women of childbearing age, from 15-45.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. Lupus can attack the skin, organs and/or joints. It is considered a chronic disease because the symptoms usually last longer than six weeks; more times than not, the symptoms can last for years. In a body that isn’t affected by lupus, antibodies are created to protect the body from invaders such as the flu. In a body that has lupus, the autoimmune system cannot tell the difference between healthy tissues and the invaders, which creates a major problem with the immune system. The immune system creates autoantibodies in a person with lupus, which is what contributes to the pain, inflammation, and damage in various parts of the body; at times the autoantibodies attack and destroy healthy tissue in the body.
While anyone can get Lupus, 9 out of 10 adults with Lupus are women between the ages of 15-45. African American women are three times more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women. It’s also common in Latina, Asian and Native American women. Latina and African American women usually get lupus at a younger age with symptoms being more severe.
Women who have lupus have a higher chance of getting other health problems that are common in women. According to the lupus fact sheet on , there are certain diseases that can arise earlier in life:
- Heart disease. When you have lupus you are at bigger risk of the main type of heart disease, called coronary artery disease (CAD). This is partly because people with lupus have more CAD risk factors, which may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The inflammation that accompanies lupus also increases the risk of developing CAD. Women with lupus are often less active because of fatigue, joint problems, and/or muscle pain, and this also puts them at risk. Heart disease is the number one killer of all women. But, women with lupus are 50 times more likely to have chest pain or a heart attack than other women of the same age.
- Osteoporosis (OSS-tee-oh-puh-ROH-suhss). Women with lupus have more bone loss and broken bones than other women. This might be because some medicines used to treat lupus cause bone loss. The disease itself can also cause bone loss. Also, pain and fatigue can keep women with lupus from exercising. Staying active is important for keeping bones healthy and strong.
- Kidney disease. Many symptoms of lupus come from the swelling of organs in the body. Almost half of all people with lupus develop kidney problems, called lupus nephritis. Kidney problems often begin within the first five years after lupus symptoms start to appear. This is one of the more serious complications of lupus, but there are treatments if problems are caught early. However, it is important to know that kidney inflammation is not painful and you can’t feel it. That is why it’s important for people with lupus to keep up-to-date with the screenings their doctors recommend. These will include urine and blood tests.
Some things you should know about lupus:
Lupus is not contagious, meaning that it is not a disease that is passed from person to person. Your lifestyle, health and environment can trigger symptoms if you are prone to getting the autoimmune disease. Signs of lupus are different in each person depending on how their system reacts. When lupus is flared up symptoms are worse and the person most likely will have body aches and feel ill. When the disease is dormant the person feels better and back to normal.
Some of the common signs are:
* A butterfly mask across the nose and cheeks; you may look very rosy
* Having a fever without a known reason
* Being very tired
* Joint stiffness and pain, it may or may not be accompanied with swelling
* Achy muscles and weakness
* Skin rashes
* Kidney problems
* Weight loss or weight gain that is unusual
* Loss of hair
If you believe you or a loved one may have lupus, start a journal/log of your symptoms. You may be able to see when and what is triggering the flare ups. Contact your physician for an appointment. Be sure to have your medical history, along with any family history of lupus or other autoimmune diseases. During your appointment, your doctor will most likely give you a physical, and schedule you to have blood and or urine tests, and a possible biopsy.
If it is found that you do have lupus, be reassured that you can live with lupus, and continue a healthy, happy life. Relax and take your days with ease. Don’t take on to much so you won’t become to tired and overwhelmed. Keep stress to a minimum and get support from family, friends, and support groups.
Please note this information is not intended for diagnosis or as a substitute for seeing a physician.
– Sara D @evolaras4real