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10 Surprising Facts You May Not Know About Lupus

Lupus Awareness Month creates a time to bring greater understanding about this life altering disease and continues to serve as a universal call-to-action on behalf of the millions of families affected by Lupus. Those fighting this unpredictable disease deserve to be recognized.

While continuing to be a serious global health problem, and despite its severity, most people don’t know much about the condition. Raising awareness is essential to creating a culture of compassion for those affected by Lupus and can help increase funding for potentially life-saving research.

Because Lupus is not a well-understood condition, many wonder why the body would start attacking itself, as in the case with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

In support of Lupus Awareness, here’s 10 facts you may not know:

1. Lupus symptoms are not the same for everyone. Some symptoms are common to other conditions and can differ greatly from person to person, which can make diagnosis difficult. 

  • Constant fatigue
  • Achy joints
  • Seizures
  • Hair loss
  • Blood clots
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Chest pain when breathing
  • Mouth or nose sores
  • Ankle swelling and fluid accumulation
  • Unexplained fever (more than 100F)

2. One of the trademark symptoms of systemic lupus is a butterfly shaped rash across the bridge of the nose. This rash is a clear indicator of lupus, although not everyone with lupus develops this rash.

3. Serious consequences of Lupus. In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and organs — the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints.

Lupus is a leading cause of premature cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke among young women.

4. Mainly a woman’s disease. 90% of those who develop lupus are women, though men can also develop lupus and their disease can impact some organs more severely.

5. Lupus is not contagious and cannot be “transferred” to another person.

6. Millions Affected. An estimated 1.5 million Americans and approximately 5 million people worldwide are living with lupus.

7. Factors that may trigger a lupus flare include:

  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Ultraviolet light
  • Environment with some still unknown

8. People with lupus are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those without lupus.

9. Diagnosis begins with a simple blood test. An antinuclear antibody (ANA) blood test can be ordered if lupus is suspected. A negative ANA test result typically rules out lupus. An ANA test is done on a sample of a person's blood. The test determines the strength of the antibodies by measuring how many times the person's blood must be diluted to get a sample that is free of antibodies.

10. Difficult to treat.

  • Lupus is usually treated by a rheumatologist who specializes in treating diseases that affect the joints, muscles and bones.
  • Since lupus is highly individualized, and no two cases are exactly alike, the treatment also varies depending on the symptoms and needs of the patient.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, such as prednisone, are used to treat lupus. Cytotoxic chemotherapies similar to those given in the treatment of cancer are also used to suppress the immune system in lupus patients.