Tomorrow marks the start of Lupus Awareness Month–an autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million people in the U.S, with 90% of them being women. And even though it is so widespread, the majority of Americans don’t know what lupus is or how serious this disease is. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs.
First, the facts. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs, including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. This can result in serious damage to these organs, as well as an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, blood clots, strokes, seizures, memory loss and even cancer and complications during pregnancy.
And even though the cause is often difficult to pinpoint, it’s thought that genetics and our environment do play a role.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms often resemble those of other diseases and conditions, but the most common sign is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. Other warning signs include:
– Fatigue and fever
– Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
– Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
– Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
– Shortness of breath
– Chest pain
– Dry eyes
– Headaches, confusion, memory loss
While there is no cure for the disease, most people with lupus experience “flare-ups” where one or more of these symptoms come and go for various periods of time.
As always, with any changes to your health and your body, consult your doctor.
For more details about Lupus Awareness Month, visit their website.