Lupus has started to get some attention recently and it is a good thing! It’s important that everyone is aware of what Lupus is, and what happens to people with this disease. Unfortunately, many people with Lupus suffer in silence, because people just don’t understand. If you have watched the news lately or keep up with the entertainment industry (guilty), then you know Selena Gomez opened up not long ago, and was outspoken about her struggle with Lupus. Then Selena Gomez was notably absent this summer, and fans where told she had a kidney transplant! This was shock to many, but understanding what Lupus is, and how it effects people, it becomes clearer why a kidney transplant could result. Some of you might know by reading my blog, and I guess my name Ha! I am a nurse. I know about the basics of Lupus, but also wanted to learn more myself about this disease. I was also a transplant nurse and have taking care of transplant patients while recovering from surgery! So I would like to discuss with you what Lupus is exactly, what causes Lupus, Is Lupus treatable, and how do you live with Lupus!
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Stay with me, I will explain autoimmune! Your immune system is a well-oiled machine, and when you have an illness or disease, it kicks it up into high gear, and defends you from foreign invaders. What happens with Lupus, is your immune system loses its ability to do this, and cannot decide what is a foreign cell or healthy one. So it decides to start attacking both. So now the immune system is attacking the body like tissues, joints, and organs! This can cause pain, inflammation, and organ damage. Lupus is not contagious, so you cannot catch it from someone who has Lupus. Lupus is a direct result of the malfunction of the immune system. When people hear autoimmune or anything with immune in the title, the mind starts to shift to HIV/AIDS. Lupus has nothing to do with this either. In HIV/AIDS the immune system malfunctions, and it starts getting slower, and stops reacting to foreign invaders like the flu. In Lupus the immune system becomes over stimulated, and starts attacking everything. It seems Lupus mostly effects women of childbearing age, but that is not set in stone. It can develop in men, children, or people of any age. Women of color are 2-3 times more likely to develop Lupus, then Caucasians (Lupus Foundation, 2017). Lupus can also be mild or severe, and over the course of time fluctuate from mild to severe. There are flare ups of the disease, when symptoms can be worse. With Selena Gomez her Lupus was severe enough to cause organ damage, and this is what most likely led her to need a kidney transplant. Some of the symptoms of Lupus are:
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Anemia, fatigue, fever
- Mouth dryness and/or ulcers
- Red or scaly rashes (Can take the form of a butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks and nose)
- Hair loss
- Depression, anxiety
- Water retention
- Weight loss
These are just a few of the common symptoms of Lupus.
*The butterfly rash that can form on the face related to Lupus*
Is Lupus Treatable?
Yes, it is. There is no cure for Lupus, but managing the symptoms can help people with Lupus live a full life. This requires a health care team approach. There will be a doctor who specializes in the diseases that affects muscle and joints (rheumatologist). Many other physicians can be in place because of the nature of lupus, it effects the whole body. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation caused by Lupus, suppress the immune system so it will stop overreacting, try to prevent flares, control pain in muscle and joints, and minimize organ damage as much as possible.
Can you live a full-life with Lupus?
Lupus needs to be closely followed by doctors and with consistent treatment patients can expect to live a normal life span. The Lupus Foundation (2017), states that 80-90% of people with Lupus, can live a full-life. Unfortunately, to date there is not a cure for Lupus. People do die from Lupus, but with treatment most people with Lupus will not have fatal outcomes. As long as awareness and treatment are provided!
I personally do not have Lupus. I do know a couple of people who suffer from the disease along with, I have treated some patients with Lupus before as a nurse. It is hard to imagine the struggle they must have with this disease. It is important to get educated on this disease, so if you do know someone with Lupus, you can have a small grasp of what Lupus is, and how they may or may not be affected. I am really impressed with Selena Gomez, that she decided to open up and let us all in, to see her struggle with Lupus. She is a rock star! (I guess both figuratively and literally) I personally hope that the message gets out there, and more research can be put into why this happens, and for a cure! For more detailed information go to www.lupus.org, it is full of the latest research in Lupus, and even how to donate for the cause!
Lupus Foundation of America (2017). Help us solve the cruel mystery. https://www.lupus.org/
*On a side note, I am thinking about making some medical related post, maybe on Mondays, I could call it “Medical Monday”Ha!* God Bless!