Photo: Selena Gomez/Instagram
This May marks Lupus Awareness Month in the USA, while May 10 is World Lupus Day. Both events aim to raise awareness of the disease, which affects celebrities including Toni Braxton, Seal, and most recently and perhaps most famously, Selena Gomez. However despite celebrities shining a light on the condition, the Lupus Foundation of America states that research has found that two-thirds of the public still knows little or nothing about lupus. Here we round up some facts and figures about lupus.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that triggers inflammation in any part of the body including skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body.
Autoimmune diseases happen when the body's immune system attacks its own healthy tissues, causing inflammation, pain, and damage.
The most common type of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can affect joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels, and can cause widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs.
There is no cure for lupus, but medical treatment and lifestyle changes can help control it.
What are the symptoms of SLE?
People with SLE may experience a variety of symptoms including fatigue, skin rashes, fevers, and pain or swelling in the joints. Other symptoms include sun sensitivity, oral ulcers, arthritis, lung problems, heart problems, kidney problems, seizures, psychosis, and blood cell and immunological abnormalities.
SLE symptoms may affect women and men differently.
Some adults may have experience a period of SLE symptoms, called flares. Some individuals experience flares frequently, and other may experience them years apart.
What causes SLE?
The causes are still unknown, but scientists believe the condition may be linked to environmental, genetic, and hormonal factors.
Who is at risk from SLE?
Lupus affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders all over the world.
However, some groups of people do develop lupus more frequently than others. Women between age 15 to 44 years are at greatest risk of developing SLE, and women in general are at a far greater risk than men.
Is SLE genetic?
Most people with SLE do not have family members with the disease, however some do have a family history of the condition. Those who have an immediate family member with SLE have only a slightly higher risk for the disease.
How is SLE diagnosed?
If you think you might have SLE you need to visit your health care provider, who will make a diagnosis taking into account your symptoms and the results of a physical examination, X-rays, and lab tests.
However, SLE can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms can also look like symptoms of other diseases.
How can SLE be treated?
Patients will need to contact their health care provider to find out more about what is right for them, but often a team of experts are needed to treat SLE as it can involve treating a variety of organs. Often patients will take immunosuppressive drugs that inhibit activity of the immune system, most commonly hydroxychloroquine and corticosteroids.
People with SLE may also have other autoimmune conditions which also require treatment.
For more information head to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.