May is Lupus Awareness Month. Lupus can affect many parts of the body and have a lot of different symptoms, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Information for this blog post came from the Lupus Foundation of America (www.lupus.org).
Lupus is a chronic disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of one’s body. It is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting infections. It is most common for lupus to affect one’s skin, joints, and internal organs.
There are four forms of lupus:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): this is the most common form of lupus.
- Cutaneous Lupus: form of lupus that only affects the skin.
- Drug-Induced Lupus: this is a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs.
- Neonatal Lupus: this is a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus.
Diagnosing lupus can be a long process that, in some cases, can take up to six years to properly diagnose! This is because of the wide variety of symptoms that mimic many other illnesses. Symptoms of lupus can come and go, and even change over time and 55% of those diagnosed with lupus report seeing four or more different healthcare providers before being accurately diagnosed. Here are some common signs and symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain or swelling in the joints
- Swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eyes
- Low fevers
- Sensitivity to sunlight or fluorescent light
- Chest pain when breathing deeply
- A butterfly shaped rash on the cheeks and nose
- Hair loss
- Sores in the mouth or nose
- Fingers and toes turning white or flue and feeling numb when a person is cold or stressed
Right now, there is no cure for lupus, and treating it is a lifelong process that involves a lot of planning and working to avoid flare ups. Later this week we will share the story of Meredith Salazar, a Kidd’s Kid living with lupus, and what lead to her diagnosis and the ongoing treatment she receives.