October is National Lupus Awareness Month, a yearly effort to support those affected by lupus, provide awareness of the disease and its effects, and fund research for better treatment for current and future sufferers of the disease.
It is believed that at least 1.5 million people currently suffer with lupus, a statistic which increases by about 16,000 new cases annually. World-wide the estimated number of people with lupus is about 5 million.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease often confused with cancer, HIV, and other diseases. Because it is autoimmune, it causes an individual’s immune system to attack its own tissues, cells, and organs, instead of invading germs and diseases. This results in pain, swelling, and various other side effects through the entire body. The disease is usually chronic, meaning it flares up and dies down again often over the course of several years or a lifetime.
Like many autoimmune diseases, lupus tends to affect one gender and race more than others. Women in their child-bearing years (15-44), particularly African Americans, are more likely to contract the disease.
There are four different types of lupus, classified based on which part of the body it affects.
Systemic lupus is the most common form of the disease. This type affects numerous system of the body, causing potentially serious damage due to swelling in the brain, kidneys, blood vessels, or nervous system.
Cutaneous lupus is limited to the skin, causing irritated to the skin and rashes on various parts of the body. Often, lupus sufferers will have symptoms of both systemic and cutaneous lupus.
Drug-induced lupus is lupus that is the more rare occurrence of lupus brought on by the use of certain drugs. It is rarely systemic or long-term. The drugs associated with occurrences of lupus are hydralazine (a blood pressure medicine), procainamide (a heart medication) and isoniazid, a treatment for tuberculosis.
Neo-natal lupus, which is also rare, develops in infants who are born to mothers with lupus, and usually disappears with no lasting effects.
Suffers of lupus may experience a wide range of symptoms and problems. Lupus can cause extreme pain due to swelling, as well as severe fatigue, light sensitivity, vulnerability to infections and seasonal viruses, depression, memory loss, mental fog, and other severe impairments.
Treatments for lupus vary from specific pain- and swelling-reducing medication to natural remedies like proper diet and exercise, the avoidance of tobacco products, and immunizations for certain diseases and seasonal viruses.
As mentioned previously, the chronic nature of lupus can make it an unpredictable hindrance to daily life. To assist you or a loved one who suffers with lupus, resource information is provided by the Lupus Foundation of America and other lupus support organizations at this time of year, and throughout the year via websites and call centers.
Since lupus can affect all areas of your life, your job performance or ability to obtain work may be significantly impacted. Although employers cannot discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of a disabling condition such as lupus, your flare ups may be severe enough to keep you from performing even basic job functions, regardless of accommodation.