May is Lupus Awareness Month and May 10, 2016 is World Lupus Day.
I didn’t know much about lupus until Patty, my wife, was diagnosed with it in January 2016. Lupus is a devastating disease. It has unpredictable and sometimes fatal effects. It is both chronic and progressive. There is an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States living with lupus and another 5 million throughout the world. Women between the ages of 15-45 make up 90% of patients. African American women are 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with lupus than other races although it develops in all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders.
Lupus is a disease of the immune system in which a person’s white blood cells attack the healthy tissues of their own body including the heart, lungs, skin, joints, muscles, kidneys, and brain. The cause of lupus is unknown. Common symptoms include fatigue, fever, joint pain, muscle weakness, sensitivity to sunlight, and a skin rash. A red rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks is a “butterfly-rash.” It was Patty’s rash and itchy skin that caused us to consult a medical professional.
There is no cure for lupus and the only treatment is immunosuppression that slows down the body’s immune system. An average lupus patient might take eight prescription medications daily to manage all of her medical conditions.
Average medical costs are $20,000 annually and 40% of lupus patients leave the workforce within three years of diagnosis due to their worsening symptoms.
Unfortunately, despite the widespread prevalence of lupus, medical research has remained underfunded relative to the scope and devastation of the disease.
If interested in fighting lupus, please get involved in one of many ways such as donating online at the Lupus Foundation of America (http://www.lupus.org), participating in a Walk to End Lupus Now event, spreading awareness through social media, and volunteering in clinical trials for new medications and treatments.