Most Americans are aware of the signs and health risks of breast cancer or heart disease, but few are aware of another significant health problem that disproportionately affects young women between the ages of 15 and 45. The disease is lupus. Lupus is caused by an unbalanced immune system that can be destructive to any major organ or tissue in the body. Lupus can be very unpredictable and is potentially fatal.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans have lupus, but many people are unaware of the potentially disabling and life-threatening health effects of lupus. The disease is two to three times more common among African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans than among Caucasians – but no one is safe from lupus.
Lupus is more than joint pain, fatigue, fevers, and skin rashes – common symptoms of the disease. Inflammation caused by lupus can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain, resulting in significant disability or death. Women with lupus have a five- to ten-fold increased risk of coronary heart disease. Approximately 40 percent of people with lupus will develop nephritis, or kidney disease. People with lupus are at high risk for blood clots, stroke, and seizures. Without intervention and treatment, the outlook for people with lupus can be poor.
Early recognition, diagnosis and proper medical care of lupus often can prevent or reduce serious health complications, such as heart disease, strokes, seizures, and kidney failure.
May is National Lupus Awareness Month in order to disseminate medically sound information about lupus, increase public understanding of the physical, emotional, and economic impact of the disease, and provide support, services, and hope to all people affected by lupus.
Lupus is difficult to detect and diagnose because many initial symptoms of the disease often are dismissed as nothing serious. It is not uncommon for people with lupus to suffer several years before doctors can make an accurate diagnosis. On average, people with lupus experience symptoms for four or more years and visit three or more doctors before they are able to obtain a correct diagnosis. Currently, there is no single laboratory test that can determine whether a person has lupus. Diagnosis is usually made by a careful review of a person's entire medical history, coupled with an analysis of the results obtained from routine laboratory tests and some specialized tests related to immune status.
For more information go to http://www.lupus.org.