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Misconceptions of lupus

As we already understand, lupus is a complex, ongoing and potentially fatal autoimmune disease, that commonly affects the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, brain, and blood vessels, causing inflammation, pain and tissue damage. It is one of the most misunderstood diseases by the public, and one of the most mysterious diseases known to the medical community.

Even now, there are still misconceptions and misunderstandings about the illness.

Here are the 5 most common statements about lupus.

NUMBER 1: “It is rare.”

This is not true.

There is a lot of people that know little or nothing about the disease, lupus is not classified as a “rare disease”. Hundreds of thousands of people have it, and millions suffer with it - worldwide. Statistically, it more common than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis - combined. However, is it mistakenly thought of as a “rare disease” because of its mysterious heterogeneity and unusual ways the disease presents itself. Lupus is considered a widespread disease; but, the general public knows so little about it because lupus awareness lags behind so many other illnesses (that are ironically less common).

NUMBER 2: “It is a new disease.”

This is not true.

Lupus is not a 21st century disease. Nor is it a 20th century disease. In 1856, Austrian dermatologist Ferdinand von Hebra published the first illustrations of lupus erythematosus in the Atlas of Skin Diseases. Let’s go back even further. A Peruvian mummy (dating around 890 AD) of a 14 year old girl who was believed to have lupus has been documented and studied, making lupus a disease that has been around since the days of Vikings invading North America and Charlemagne's rule of the Roman Empire.

These historical facts drive home the point that lupus is indeed a condition that has been around since the dark ages.

NUMBER 3: “It is contagious.”

This is not true.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system cannot tell the difference between the healthy cells and the harmful cells in the body. With lupus, the immune system goes into hyper-drive and mistakenly attacks and destroys the healthy cells by making antibodies that target the body’s tissue. Therefore making it non contagious.

NUMBER 4: “It only affects women.”

This is not true.

Believe it or not, lupus is not a woman’s disease. However, it disproportionately affects women. But, let’s clarify. Men get lupus. Boys get lupus. Teenage boys get lupus and it can be very severe. Lupus or SLE may present similarly in men and women; however, men tend to suffer from these symptoms more commonly:

  • Renal (kidney) disease, AKA lupus nephritis

  • Pleurisy

  • Discoid lupus.

  • Lupus anticoagulant

  • Hemolytic Anemia

  • Seizures

NUMBER 5:“It goes away.”

This is not true.

At times, lupus patients may have periods with few or no symptoms, commonly called “remission.” Sadly, there is still no cure for lupus; and many people live with aspects of the illness their entire lives. However, 80 to 90% of people with lupus can live a normal lifespan. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of managing the disease more successfully. Also, the more a patient complies with doctors orders and takes his or her medication properly, the better the patient outcome.

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.

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