When I tell someone I have lupus, a puzzled look comes across her face. People have heard about it, but don't really know what it is. Sometimes, someone will ask, "it's an autoimmune disease, isn't it?" Or, "is it a blood disorder?"
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is not always easy to diagnose, as I found out personally. It took several series of blood and other tests to rule out other possibilities before my physician settled upon lupus. I had all the "usual suspect" symptoms: the butterfly rash, chronic fatigue, joint pain, sudden drastic weight loss, chronic insomnia and other symptoms that initially indicated any number of possible conditions.
Very simply put, lupus is an autoimmune disease. The body essentially attacks itself. According to the Lupus Foundatin of America (LFA), as many as 2 million Americans have some form of lupus, mostly women. Severity ranges from mild to life-threatening.
My case is not quite as severe as my husband's half sister, who battles heart disease (a family issue, her mother died of heart disease) and various cancers. Unfortunately, she has more bad days than good.
Last month (January 2008), researchers reported findings of 6 new genes involved in the immune system that affect lupus, taking another step closer to solving the lupus mystery.
If you, or someone you know, is living with lupus or you would like to know more, please see:
Systemic lupus erythematosus:
An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of lupus.
The Lupus Foundation
6 New Genes Found
Dodging Lupus: Q&A