May is Lupus Awareness Month - Sandy Sharrett

To the editor:

I just wanted to take a minute to let people know that the month of May is Lupus Awareness month. I have lived with SLE (Systemic Lupus) for more than 20 years. I was diagnosed at the age of 16.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about this disease. You can't catch lupus. It is not contagious, you can't give it to someone if you have the disease. It is not related to HIV/AIDS. With lupus, the immune system is overactive, while in HIV or AIDS, the immune system is underactive.

Systemic lupus is the most common type of lupus. Systemic lupus can affect any organ system of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, joints, and skin. The most common symptoms of lupus are: extreme fatigue or exhaustion, headaches, painful or swollen joints, fever, a butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose, sun-or light-sensitivity, and hair loss.

Only ten percent of people with lupus will have a close relative who already has lupus, or may develop it. Some people with lupus also will have a relative who has lupus or another autoimmune disease.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage any organ in the body and can cause life-threatening consequences. Five percent of all cases of lupus are in children. About 20 percent of systemic lupus patients are diagnosed before 20 years of age. In the majority of these individuals, the illness begins around the time of puberty -- 12 to 14 years of age.

The disease seems to, especially, target women of color. In the United States, lupus is two-to-three times more prevalent among Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, including people in Hawaii and Alaska.

Ninety percent of the people who develop lupus are females. Males also can develop lupus, and their disease can be more severe in some organs. To learn more about Lupus, you can go to the Lupus Foundation Of America web site, at: www.lupus.org.


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