May is Lupus Awareness Month. As someone who has an aunt who battles with the disease as well as a dear friend, it’s imperative that we learn more about the autoimmune disease that may slowly be breaking down someone you love. Celebrities who also call themselves “Spoonies” include Seal, Toni Braxton, Nick Cannon, Lady Gaga, Trick Daddy and more.
Lupus, one of the autoimmune diseases that rarely gets discussed in black and brown communities, happens when the immune system attacks its tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage. Lupus symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and a lupus rash. According to the Lupus Foundation, 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus.
There are two types of lupus, Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). While DLE mostly affects the skin when exposed to sunlight, SLE is more serious. It affects the skin and other vital organs, and can cause a raised, scaly, butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks that can leave scars if untreated. SLE can also affect other parts of the skin elsewhere on the body.
Aside from the visible effects of systemic lupus, the disease may also inflame and/or damage the connective tissue in the joints, muscles, and skin, along with the membranes surrounding or within the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. SLE can also cause kidney disease. Brain involvement is rare, but for some, lupus can cause confusion, depression, seizures, and strokes.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Lupus affects NINE times more women than men and more women of color than white women.1 in 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease. Black and Latina women are two to three more times prevalent to have lupus and lupus affects 1 in 537 young African-American women.
- Most people with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15 and 44.
- Hair loss is among the common symptoms of people diagnosed with lupus.
- Lupus is a disease of flares and remission. Lupus flare ups can be mild or serve, ranging from arthritis to skin rashes and higher vulnerability to infection.
- On average, it takes nearly SIX years according to the Lupus Foundation for people with lupus to be diagnosed.
So there you have it. If you know someone with lupus, let this be a lesson to help you understand what they’re going through. If you hear someone refer to themselves as a spoonie, that’s because it’s a metaphor for people living with autoimmune diseases. The more you know!