Sadly, lupus is not a well-understood condition hence why people have a confused look when you say you have lupus. So, we have rounded up some quick facts below.
1. Lupus affects nine times more women than men, and more women of color than white women.
We have diagnosed children, men and senior citizens with lupus. However, women of childbearing age — 13 to 49 — are far more likely to be affected.
Genetics also plays a role. If you’re a woman with no family history of lupus, your chances of getting lupus are about one in 400. If your parents or a sibling has lupus, your chances jump to one in 25.
African-American and Latina women with no family history of lupus have about a one in 250 chance of developing the disease.
2. Lupus is a disease of flares and remissions.
Lupus flare-ups can be mild, or they can be severe. Around 75 percent of people with lupus have skin rashes and arthritis. Half of these people tend to also have kidney problems. Lupus patients are also more vulnerable to infection than most people.
3. Lupus symptoms can differ greatly from person to person.
Some symptoms are common to other conditions, too, which can make diagnosis difficult. Common lupus symptoms include:
A butterfly-shaped rash around the cheeks and nose
Sensitivity to light
Chest pain when breathing
Swelling in the extremities or around the eyes
4. Diagnosis begins with a simple blood test.
We mention this a lot in most of our blogs but when we suspect lupus, we arrange for an antinuclear antibody (ANA) blood test. A negative ANA test result usually rules out lupus.
We know that ANA test results will come back positive in virtually everyone with lupus. However, some people will have a positive result even though they do not have lupus. When the test comes back positive, other criteria has to be examined.
In those cases, we compare the patient’s symptoms with a list of 11 criteria for lupus. If they meet four or more of the criteria, they are usually diagnosed with lupus.
5. Treatment depends on the type of flare-ups you have.
Mild swelling and joint pain may be treated with acetaminophen or a non-sterodial anti-flammatory drug like naproxen, or ibuprofen.
Rashes may be treated with topical steroid creams. And corticosteroids like prednisone and immunosuppressants treat serious kidney problems.
Plaquenil, an anti-malarial drug, treats skin rashes, arthritis, and sometimes fatigue.
Ninety-five percent of lupus patients have a five-year survival rate today, compared to 5 percent in the 1950s.
And many people with lupus have a mild form. We tell patients that proper medication can even help people with severe lupus control their flare-ups and live productive lives.
It’s good to remember that diagnosis and treatment of lupus keeps getting better.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.