BY: ALLISON BROWN
Just recently, I had a friend disclose to me that she was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of sixteen.
She had a bald spot on her scalp that was getting larger and larger. Her mother took her to the doctor and a biopsy of the scalp was done. I noticed a large scar on her right upper arm and asked if she had been burned. She indicated no it is Lupus. She experiences anemia and as a result is extremely tired at times. She also told me that Lupus is called, the “disease with a thousand faces” because it affects everyone differently. As a result, I wanted to write about Lupus to share information with you this week. So C.K. here’s to you and the amazing struggle you endure every day and you do it with such style and grace!
Lupus is a chronic (meaning longstanding disease), autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system, which defends your body against disease, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks healthy cells causing inflammation and other symptoms. www.healthline.com/health/autoimmune-disorders. The skin, muscles, joints, blood, lungs, heart, kidneys and the brain are the tissues and organs typically affected by this disease. According to Lupus Canada, women are nine times more likely than men to be diagnosed with Lupus; children can also be diagnosed. The usual age for diagnosis is between 15 and 45 years of age with 1:1000 Canadians being affected.
The most common type of lupus is SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus). There are also other forms of Lupus that are specific to the skin others that are medically induced as a result of side effects of medication used to treat other medical conditions according to Lupus Canada.
There is some evidence to suggest that Lupus is genetically inherited, as well some links to hormones in females who are diagnosed in the “childbearing years”. The specific cause of Lupus remains elusive.
In the initial phase complaints of flu-like symptoms, severe fatigue, a sudden unexplained loss or gain in weight, headaches, hair loss, hives, high blood pressure, or changes in the color of the fingers in the cold.
As the disease progresses, possible symptoms that the person may present with are as follows: joint pain, sometimes with swelling, redness and heat, a red rash across upper cheeks and bridge of the nose, extreme fatigue, an unusual reaction to sunlight, a red scaly rash, small, usually painless sores inside the nose or mouth, chest pain, worse when lying down or inhaling, swelling of feet and legs, weight gain, seizures or severe psychological symptoms, and or abnormalities in blood chemistry which show up in blood tests. There are three phases or stages of this disease, chronic phase, “flare up”, and or remission.
Lupus is a serious yet treatable disease. There is no cure but anti-inflammatory medications and steroids are the drugs of choice when treating Lupus. It is very important that the doctor and patient work collaboratively to monitor for side effects of medications and watch for “flare ups” as the sooner “flare ups are recognized, the sooner treatment can begin. Again, as I have always said, patients need to advocate for themselves and their family members if medications are too potent, are not effective, or symptoms seem to be getting worse.
My friend is an example of what life is like living with a chronic illness. It is not easy but she is taking one day at a time and from what I have seen doing the very best that she can to have a good quality of life.
So, in closing, I dedicate this article to all of the readers coping with a chronic illness, you are appreciated, and acknowledge that it is not easy, your strength and faith are applauded. Your drive to be successful in the midst of your challenges is much to be admired. Your life is your story. Write well, edit often. ~Susan Statham