Lupus Awareness Month is observed during May to increase public understanding of this unpredictable and potentially life-threatening disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. It's important to continue the momentum year-round. Help educate others about lupus. Here are a month's worth of facts to share.
1. Systemic lupus is the most common type of lupus. Systemic lupus can affect any organ system of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, joints, and skin.
2. In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu).The result is the production of autoantibodies that attack healthy tissue.
3. Most people with lupus will experience joint pain without swelling. Although people with lupus can have arthritis, lupus is not a form of arthritis.
4. Lupus is not related to HIV/AIDS. In lupus, the immune system is overactive, while in HIV or AIDS, the immune system is underactive.
5. You can’t catch lupus. Lupus is not contagious and can’t be given to someone if you have the disease.
6. Ninety percent of the people who develop lupus are females. Males also can develop lupus and their disease can be more severe in some organs.
7. 5 percent of all cases of lupus are in children. About 20% of systemic lupus patients are diagnosed before 20 years of age. In the majority of these individuals, the illness begins around the time of puberty, or 12 to 14 years of age.
8.: Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage any organ in the body and can cause life-threatening consequences.
9. Kidney disease occurs in 50-75% of children with SLE. The prevalence seems to be slightly higher than that seen in adults.
10. Only ten percent of people with lupus will have a close relative who already has lupus or may develop lupus. Some people with lupus also will have a relative who has lupus or another autoimmune disease.
11. The most common symptoms of lupus are: extreme fatigue or exhaustion, headaches, painful or swollen joints, fever, a butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose, sun- or light-sensitivity, and hair loss.
12. Some of the factors that may trigger lupus in people who have the genes that make them prone to develop the disease include infections, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain prescription drugs, and hormones.
13. Cutaneous lupus is a form of lupus that is limited to the skin and can cause rashes or sores.
14. Drug-induced lupus is a lupus-like disease caused by taking specific prescription drugs. The symptoms usually disappear within six months after these medications are stopped.
15. African Americans, Hispanics/Latinas, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are two or three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians; however, lupus affects people of all races and ethnicities.
16. Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus and is caused by antibodies from the mother that affects the infant in the womb. With proper testing, physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth.
17. About five percent of the children born to individuals with lupus will develop the illness. At present, there is no genetic screening test that can determine who might go on to develop lupus later in life.
18. Lupus is typically treated by a doctor called a rheumatologist. Depending on how lupus affects their body, some people with lupus may need additional care from specialists, like a dermatologist for skin problems, a nephrologist for kidney disease, or a cardiologist for heart complications.
19. Since many symptoms of lupus mimic those of other illnesses, lupus often can take three to five years to diagnose. Symptoms of lupus can come and go over time, which makes a definite diagnosis more difficult.
20. There is no single laboratory test that can determine whether a person does or does not have lupus. Diagnosing lupus involves analyzing the results of several lab tests that are used to monitor the immune system, along with a review of the person’s entire medical history.
21. With current methods of therapy, 80 to 90 percent of people with non-organ threatening lupus can look forward to a normal lifespan.
22. Lupus develops most often between ages 15 and 44. However, lupus can develop among males and females of any age, including children and teens.
23. It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of all people with lupus, and as many as two-thirds of all children with lupus, will develop kidney complications that require medical care and treatment.
24. More than 90 percent of people with lupus will experience joint and/or muscle pain. Treatments are available that can help to control the pain associated with lupus.
25. The malar, or butterfly rash on the face, is present in about one third of those with systemic lupus.
26. Discoid lupus (most common skin lupus) accounts for approximately 10 percent of all cases of lupus and occurs in 20 percent of those with systemic lupus.
27. Approximately 95 percent of people with lupus suffer from some form of oral involvement that will affect their mouth or gums. Ulcers on the roof of the mouth or in the nose can be a sign of lupus among people who are not yet diagnosed with the disease.
28. Eye disease occurs in approximately 20 percent of people with lupus. The disease can affect the eyeball, the retina, and the muscles that control eye movement.
29. Lupus can be expensive to manage and live with. A study found that the average annual cost to provide healthcare for a person with lupus was $12,643 and was nearly $21,000 when lost productivity on the job due to illness is included.
30. Successful treatment of lupus often requires a combination of medications. Nearly two dozen clinical studies are underway to develop new safe, more tolerable and effective treatments for lupus.
31. As many as 80 percent of people with lupus experience fatigue. For some people with lupus, fatigue is their main symptom and can be debilitating, even to the point of forcing them to stop working.