May is Lupus Awareness Month, and people are more aware of the complex disorder’s existence today than they’ve ever been before, largely due to celebrities like Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga and Paula Abdul who’ve been open about their struggles with the disease — including the fact that it can cause mental health issues like depression. Find out more about the autoimmune disease here:
1. We Don't Know What Causes It
Lupus — or the variety of diseases that are collectively known as lupus — is a disease of the autoimmune system, as it can’t tell the difference between the body’s health tissues and foreign invaders (bacteria, germs, and viruses). But researchers still don’t know what triggers it.
2. It's Most Common Among Women
One of the most notable things about lupus is that it most commonly afflicts women, particularly women of childbearing age between 18 and 44, and disproportionately affects women of colour, like Asians and African Americans.
3. There Are Several Different Kinds Of Lupus
Lupus sufferers have a huge range of symptoms that depend on what part or parts of the body their particular variety of lupus is targeting; they can experience everything from swollen joints to ulcers and seizures. The most common form is based around the skin, and causes huge red rashes across the cheeks.
4. It's Often Misdiagnosed
Lupus is one of the most misdiagnosed illnesses in the world, purely because its manifestations in every person are so unique. The symptoms of lupus can often closely resemble other illnesses, which means people can be put in a cycle of pain, fatigue and improper medication for years.
5. We've Known About Its Existence For A Long Time
While popular awareness of lupus may be new, the disorder itself is not. Though the diagnosis “lupus” itself is usually attributed to a 13th century physician, it seems that ancient Greek medical thinkers were aware of the disorder, even if they weren’t able to articulate its causes or how it worked.
6. Lupus Is Lifelong And Treatment Is Longterm
Lupus is not a one-off problem. While it tends to manifest itself before the age of 50, it then sticks around and can flare up at any given moment. The process for getting diagnosed and put onto a treatment program is, unsurprisingly, lengthy. An overall cure for the disease has not been discovered.
7. More People Have Lupus Than You Think
It’s estimated that there’s more than 5 million people around the world who have some form of lupus. Although it’s most common in women (aged 15-44), men, children, and teens can also develop the disease. Locally, it is estimated to affect nine out of every 10,000 Singaporeans.
8. New Treatments Are On The Horizon
Lupus sufferers…don’t lose hope — new medical treatments are being developed regularly, and there are lupus support communities out there full of people who have been through what you’re going through, and can help guide you through the roughest patches.