Lupus Awareness Month: Don’t Ignore the Signs

young women holding lupus ribbon to celebrate lupus awareness month in May

Plenty of people have heard of lupus due to the popularity of the phrase “It’s not lupus” on the TV show House. Do you know why only one character on the show was ever diagnosed with the disease? It typically takes an average of six years to diagnose properly, as it can disguise itself as many other diseases. May is Lupus Awareness Month and the 10th is World Lupus Day, providing an excellent opportunity to bring up some important information.

What Is It?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, like skin, joints, and/or organs. No one is sure what causes it, something goes wrong within the immune system, which normally protects the body from dangerous invaders like viruses. The antibodies that are supposed to protect you instead turn on you and attack your body’s tissue, which causes inflammation, pain, and can damage any part of your body.

The name comes from Canis lupus because the first diagnoses were of the type of the disease that affects the skin, which looks like wolf bites.

Why Awareness is Critical

Since this disease can mimic many others, it takes a long time to diagnose. It can be misdiagnosed multiple times, this is life-threatening in itself because it means patients could take the wrong (and potentially dangerous) medications as treatment and the illness can progress rapidly. The best way to diagnose is a blood test for abnormal ANA (antinuclear antibody), malar rash, and arthritis amongst others.

Learn More

Additional Facts from lupus.org:

  • More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
  • Our research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
  • Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age. However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too. Most people with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15-44.
  • Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians.
  • People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.

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