The month of October is earmarked for raising awareness for lupus – a debilitating, life-long illness that is complex in both its diagnosis and progression. In the UK alone, nearly 50,000 adults live with lupus, and it is estimated that one to eight in every 100,000 individuals are diagnosed with the disease each year. While lupus is not the most common illness plaguing adults throughout the world, is one of the most misunderstood. October as lupus awareness month is meant to shed light on what lupus is, the symptoms it can cause, who is at risk of developing the condition, and how to manage diagnosis and treatment.
What is Lupus?
As an autoimmune disease, lupus is a condition where the body’s immune system operates in a way that is counterproductive to one’s overall health. Instead of creating antibodies to fight off bad bacteria, viruses, and infections, the immune system produces antibodies that wreak havoc on a person’s healthy tissues within the body. Lupus leaves the body weak, and individuals often suffer from ongoing pain and inflammation of the skin, organs, joints, and muscles. The illness results in flare-ups of more severe symptoms and progresses over time if there is not a course of treatment in place.
Lupus comes in many forms, but there are two broad types that are most common among adults: Discoid lupus erythematosus, or DLE, and Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. With the former, symptoms are mostly related to the skin instead of organs within the body. Lesions often form on people with DLE, specifically when they are exposed to direct sunlight, and scars are left behind that are difficult to heal. Individuals diagnosed with SLE often have more severe symptoms as this type of lupus affects the skin and vital organs within the body. Rashes may occur on the cheeks, nose, or other visible parts of the body with SLE, and inflammation and subsequent damage to the connective tissues between the muscles, joints, and skin may take place. In the most extreme cases of SLE, seizures, kidney disease, and stroke may occur as well.
The telling signs of lupus are different for everyone, which makes the condition difficult to diagnose initially. However, some of the more common symptoms include:
- Swollen glands
- Flu-like symptoms
- Weight loss
- Inflamed tissues
- Poor circulation of the fingers and toes
- Persistent joint and muscle pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Extreme fatigue and weakness
- Rashes on the skin
- Hair loss
Some individuals may also experience depression or mental health issues because of lupus, as well as ulcers in the mouth or nose.
Who’s at Risk?
Lupus can affect anyone, but it is most common among women who are of African descent. Adult males between the ages of 15 and 45 are also more prone to be diagnosed with lupus, as are those with a family history of the condition. Some medications may also be linked to lupus, as are some hormone therapies. For individuals who are highly susceptible to lupus, there are also factors that trigger a flare. Extended exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking, infections like hepatitis C, and exposure to chemical toxins may all contribute to the symptoms of lupus for someone who is already ahigher risk.
The Common Problem of Misdiagnosis
Although lupus is not the most common illness affecting adults around the globe, there are several reasons the condition has its own month for raising awareness. The disease is highly complex and progressive, and because it does not have a single cause or a clear set of symptoms that always point to the underlying issue, getting an accurate diagnosis early on is a true challenge.
A specialist from a medical negligence firm shares that they manage several claims each year that are related to the misdiagnosis of lupus among adults. The symptoms often experienced by individuals with lupus are not disease-specific, which means a diagnosis of a different condition may be made initially. Illnesses like Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome all have similar warning signs that pave the way for misdiagnosis among even the most experienced medical professionals. When people with lupus do not have the correct diagnosis from the start, treatments prescribed can miss the mark which ultimately leads to more discomfort and ongoing complications with the disease.
Even though diagnosing lupus is a challenge, it is important for individuals with one or more of the symptoms listed above to schedule an appointment with their GP as soon as possible. Getting attention from a medical professional is the key in the fight against lupus because additional testing can be done to pinpoint the issue and possible courses of treatment. In addition, it is helpful not only for the individual diagnosed with lupus but his or her family members and loved ones to get adequate resources about the disease. Lupus is complex in its progression, but having access to the right information early in the process is beneficial in reducing the stress and confusion surrounding the illness.
Article Submitted By Community Writer