Every body has a defense system that is created to fight off viruses and bacteria. This defense system creates all sorts of “warriors” (antibodies) that specifically target certain foreign invaders and kill them. For reasons still unknown, sometimes the body produces antibodies that cannot distinguish between these foreign invaders and healthy cells from your own body. The result is autoimmune disease, that is, the body starts attacking itself. These diseases take many forms, and many chronic illnesses have been attributed to this. But, because of a special request by a very good friend, I will focus today on a condition that affects many minority women in America: Lupus.
1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): This is the most serious form, it affects the joints, kidneys, skin, lungs, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, blood, and brain
2. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE): This form affects only the skin
3. Drug-induced lupus: Induced by certain prescription medicines, mimics SLE without affecting the kidneys or the nervous system
Symptoms: The first onset of symptoms usually occurs in childbearing years, that is, between 15-45. They are:
- Achy joints (95%)
- High fever (90%)
- Arthritis/ swollen joints (90%)
- Extreme fatigue (81%)
- Skin rashes (74%)
- Anemia (low iron in the blood) (71%)
- Kidney problems (50%)
- Pain in the chest while breathing (45%)
- Butterfly-shaped rash on cheeks and nose (42%)
- Sun sensitivity (30%)
- Hair loss (27%)
- Blood clotting problems (20%)
- Fingers turning white or blue in the cold (17%)
- Seizures (15%)
- Mouth or nose ulcers (12%)
Treatment: There is currently no cure for lupus. However, there are effective treatments that tend to keep it under control. Lifestyle wise, those with lupus are encouraged to get sufficient rest, stay out of sunlight, maintain exercise, not smoke, and eat a healthy diet. There are also some medications that can be prescribed depending on the severity of the disease, including: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive medications.
Morbidity (# of people affected): Approximately 2 million in the US, although the exact number cannot be known. 9/10 of these are women, and affects more of the minority population. It is estimated that roughly 16,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
Mortality (# of deaths): Roughly 1,500 die before the age of 45 from this condition
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