May is National Lupus Awareness MonthBy EVELYN JACKSON COLUMNIST,
The aim of Lupus Awareness Month is to raise awareness and educate others about this life changing disease.
Lupus Awareness Month is supported by the Lupus Foundation of America.
The organization provides ideas and resources on how people can help raise awareness.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. In a healthy immune system, the body produces antibodies which destroy unhealthy cells such as bacteria, viruses and foreign waste.
However, lupus causes an overactive immune system to produce auto antibodies which attack healthy body tissue.
This can affect most parts of the body including any organ.
There are several types of lupus, the most common being systemic lupus in which any organ of the body can be affected.
Organs which can be damaged by lupus include the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin.
Other areas of the body can also be affected including the blood and the joints. In about 20% of cases, the eyes are affected.
Other types of lupus include Cutaneous lupus which affects only the skin causing sores and rashes, and drug induced lupus brought on through the use of some types of prescription drugs.
There are over five million people with lupus of which 90 percent are female.
Symptoms of lupus include fatigue, fever, headaches, sensitivity to light and hair loss.
People with lupus may also have a butterfly shaped rash across their cheeks and nose.
Fatigue is one of the main symptoms affecting about 80 percent of people with lupus.
Lupus can often be hard to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to other diseases.
In some cases it is not uncommon for several years to pass before a diagnosis of lupus is confirmed as other diseases may be ruled out first.
As symptoms of lupus can come and go, it can make diagnosis even harder.