The Lowdown on Lupus
Halloween costumes and candy may be on your mind, but October is also the time to recognize Lupus Awareness Month. But what exactly is lupus? Find out all you need to know about this disease right here.
What Is Lupus?
Everyone has a fighter in them. It's called the immune system! It battles germs and bacteria to keep your body from getting sick. But if your immune system isn't working properly, it becomes autoimmune and starts attacking itself - that's when you get sick. Lupus (pronounced loo-pus) is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks your body's healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation and tissue damage. There are three types of lupus.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus - SLE is the most common and the most serious. It can affect any part of the body, but usually the skin, joints, heart, lungs and brain.
- Discoid lupus - This type causes a rash on the face, neck or scalp and can leave scars.
- Drug-induced lupus - This type is caused by a bad reaction to medication. It affects your body in the same way that SLE does, but will go away once you stop taking the medicine.
What Causes It?
Scientists still don't know what causes lupus, but they think it could be factors like genetics and the environment. The good news is that it isn't contagious, which means you can't catch it from someone who has it.
What Are the Symptoms?
- Achy or swollen joints.
- Extreme tiredness.
- Skin rashes.
- Photosensitivity (sensitive to sunlight).
- Hair loss.
- Ulcers in the mouth or nose.
How Is It Treated?
Unfortunately, there's no cure for lupus yet, but it's treatable with immunosuppressive medication to stop the immune system from attacking itself and corticosteroids to control inflammation. It's also important to get a lot of rest, eat a well-balanced diet and wear plenty of sunscreen when you're out in the sun.
Did U Know?
- Lupus develops most often between the ages of 15 and 44.
- Lupus primarily affects young women.
- Lupus is two to three times more common among African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans than in Caucasians.
- Contrary to popular belief, British singer Seal wasn't bitten by a seal and didn't wrestle a wild boar. His facial scars were caused by a childhood bout with lupus.
- Michael Jackson was also diagnosed with lupus in the mid '80s.
- For more info on lupus, head to The Lupus Foundation of America.