Many people might have only learned about Lupus when singer Selena Gomez revealed it was the reason she had a kidney transplant in 2017. However, an estimated 1.5 million Americans are currently living with Lupus. Whether you have recently received a diagnosis or know someone who has, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are a few mandatory facts everyone should know about Lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease
Your body’s immune system is designed to protect you from disease and infection by producing antibodies to destroy harmful invaders such as bacteria, viruses or toxins. With an autoimmune disease, however, the body’s immune system misidentifies your normal, healthy cells as being foreign and attacks them by mistake. Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, along with celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and type 1 diabetes.
There are several types of Lupus
There are actually five specific kinds of Lupus that affect the body in different ways. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common, accounting for an estimated 70% of all Lupus cases. It can impact the entire body, affecting many organs at the same time, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. There is also Discoid Lupus, Drug-induced Lupus and Neonatal Lupus. Due to the different types of Lupus, there are unique treatment plans for everyone. Treatment plans usually involve chemotherapy and steroids. Lupus does not function the same way for everyone.
Related: The Types of Lupus
Women are at a higher risk of getting Lupus
Women are nine times more likely than men to be diagnosed with the disease.
But men get Lupus, too
When men do get Lupus, they tend to have more severe symptoms than women do.
Race plays a role
Lupus is most prevalent in African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, African-American women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get Lupus. In addition, African-American women tend to get Lupus at an earlier age and develop more serious complications.
Getting a diagnosis can be tricky
The wide range of Lupus symptoms are frequently attributed to other conditions. In the television show House, Dr. House would always try to convince the other doctors that it was never Lupus.
Related: Lupus Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no known cause, but a few factors do play a role in triggering Lupus
While the exact causes of Lupus are unknown, research has found strong evidence that both genetics and environmental factors are likely involved with either triggering the disease or aggravating symptoms.
There are breakthroughs on the horizon
Fifty years ago, the survival rate for people living with Lupus was only 50%. Today, those diagnosed have a 97% survival rate at five years and 90% at ten. The medical community continues to study Lupus to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. In 2011, the first drug specific to treat Lupus was developed called Benlysta. There are rumored to be more developed in the future.