Some call it the cruel mystery. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can strike any part of the body, but the wide range of symptoms can be easily mistaken for something else. In this segment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Tessie Holloway, president of the Lupus Foundation of America’s North Texas chapter, discusses the disease and the need for greater awareness.
10 Facts (And Myths) About Lupus
- Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. 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).
- Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.
- Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot "catch" lupus from someone or "give" lupus to someone.
- Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.
- Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
- Research shows that at least 1.5 million Americans may have lupus. The actual number may be higher; but there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
- It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
- Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). But men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too.
- Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus. People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
- More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
Source: Lupus Foundation of America