A couple of nights ago, we were all eating at the dinner table when out of nowhere my son says, “dad, what’s lupus?”
I was surprised that he asked about lupus. “Why do you ask son, where did you hear about lupus?”
One of his friends at school was telling him at lunch that his mom suffered from lupus and she was having a hard time with her recent flare up. He said he thought the word “lupus” sounded kind of funny, but he knew it must be serious based on how his friend was talking about his mom.
I had to think for a moment about how I was going to explain lupus to him. It’s not one of those simple explanations that most people understand right away.
I’ll do my best to explain to you, how I explained to him, what lupus is.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain, swelling and damage to your own cells. Basically, your immune system, for some reason, attacks your own healthy tissues.
Normally, the immune system protects the body. When someone suffers from lupus, their immune system wrongly attacks various parts of their own body. This most often includes the skin, the kidneys, the joints, and the blood.
We actually do not know what causes lupus. Many scientists believe female hormones likely play a role because women make up the majority of those suffering from lupus.
It can happen to anyone, at anytime, but women make up 90% of the nearly 1.5 million cases of lupus in the United States.
According to WebMD (2017) the most common symptoms of lupus include achy joints, unexplained fever, swollen joints, prolonged or extreme fatigue, skin rash, ankle swelling and fluid accumulation, pain in the chest when breathing deeply, butterfly rash across the cheeks and nose, hair loss, sensitivity to the sun and light, seizures, mouth or nose sores, pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress (Raynaud’s phenomenon).
That’s a lot of symptoms right! Most of them are pretty bad too! Imagine living day in and day out with any number of those symptoms. No thank you!
The main treatment for those suffering from lupus involves suppressing the immune system. This can involve any number of medications, but that can be very hard on the body and requires constant monitoring.
There is no known cure for lupus, but there are researchers all around the world working tirelessly to find one. In the meantime, those living with lupus can improve their quality of life through exercise, a healthy diet, proper sleep, and educating themselves about living with lupus.
If you or someone you know suffers from lupus, we are always here to help you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.