May is Lupus Awareness Month, which is the perfect opportunity to shed light on a disease that is not often heard about.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. It is chronic, which means the symptoms can last months or indefinitely. Lupus attacks the immune system which is the body’s defense against germs, viruses and bacteria. To fight these invaders, the body produces antibodies to fend them off.
What autoimmunity means is that your system cannot tell the difference between the invading forces and your body’s natural tissues. This causes the auto-antibodies to attack the healthy tissue, often destroying it.
Most scientists are under agreement that genetics, hormones and the environment are what can cause lupus. Lupus is not contagious. You cannot catch lupus from somebody who has it. The severity of lupus can range from mild to severe, meaning life threatening.
The most common form of lupus is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This type can inflame the kidneys, nervous system and the brain. It can become so bad that kidney transplants or dialysis is needed. If inflammation of the nervous system and brain occurs; confusion, memory loss, headaches and strokes can happen.
Then there is Cutaneous Lupus, which attacks the skin and is generally far less severe than Systemic Lupus, but it is problematic enough to cause discomfort, pain and emotionally distress.
Cutaneous Lupus can manifest in rashes and sores, commonly seen as raised, red, scaly disks.
Jennifer Parks suffers from Cutaneous Lupus.
“I wasn’t diagnosed until late last year,” says Parks. “I’ve had it for years and doctors kept telling me, it’s just sun damage. When I saw the dermatologist she said it wasn’t sun damage, it’s lupus.”
Parks continues, “I don’t have mine all the time. My immune system just goes whacko once in a while; mostly in the summer…it’s worse than what a rash looks like. It gets red, irritated, and the skin will raise up. It will itch really bad.”
“It was either in December or January my head got a lot of the red spots on it, and I actually lost some hair…I had a comb-over for a while. I try to make it funny now, back then it wasn’t. It was very devastating. My hair has grown back and I’m very thankful for that. Some people that have Cutaneous Lupus, their hair doesn’t grow back.”
“The lupus that I have is not near as severe as so many other people out there…I am thankful for that.”
If you suspect you have any form of lupus, consult your doctor for a diagnosis and the best treatment.
For more information about lupus, visit www.resources.lupus.org
Reach Tyler Eschberger at 606-248-1010 ext. 1126 or on Twitter @TylerEsch89.