Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage skin, joints and organs. With this disease, the body attacks its own healthy tissue and organs, which causes inflammation and pain.
The disease can range from mild to deadly. There are various forms of lupus, including systemic lupus, which is the most common and what people usually refer to when discussing the disease. Each form of lupus affects different parts of the body.
The Lupus Foundation of America lists the following common symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
- Painful or swollen joints
- Anemia (low numbers of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
- Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
- Pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
- Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
- Sun- or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
- Hair loss
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Mouth or nose ulcers
Hormones, genetics, and environment are believed to be some of the causes of lupus. However, in most cases, the exact cause is unknown.
African American women are three times more likely to develop lupus compared to Caucasian women, according to the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional statistics from the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation show that African Americans tend to develop lupus earlier in life than Caucasians and nearly one in every 250 people living with this disease will develop severe symptoms. Lupus is more common in women of color in general. Men are most likely to get lupus before puberty or after age 50.
Diagnosing lupus may be difficult, as symptoms vary per person and tend to mimic other conditions. A diagnosis usually comes through blood and urine tests. Treatment options vary, but could include medication.
There are ways to better cope with the disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting enough rest and exercise, protecting yourself from the sun, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet.
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Snacks are OK in moderation and should consist of items like fruit, whole grains, or nuts to satisfy hunger and not cause excessive weight gain.