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Lupus is a chronic disorder. Basically, it's a condition whereby the body fails to recognize the difference between antigens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and its own tissues and organs and attacks itself. Quite often, people who have been diagnosed with lupus don't look sick, but we feel much less than well. Fortunately, it is not itself fatal, but other conditions can develop as a result of a suppressed immune system that could be fatal.

The problem for the medical profession is being able to determine that the patient has lupus because symptoms can vary so widely and be mistaken for other conditions, hence it can be the "mystery illness." However, there are certain commonalities, such as a butterfly rash across the face, so called because of its shape: from the forehead, down the nose and across the cheeks. Chronic fatigue is another commonality. Arthritis associated with lupus is generally not degenerative; however, some patients, like me, develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Some patients also have serious systemic issues, as lupus affects the lymph nodes, that can develop into cancers. My sister-in-law is battling breast cancer and heart disease, aggravated by compromised immune system, but she already has a family history of both conditions. But, lupus is NOT a cancer.

Pacific Asians, which I am partly, are predisposed to lupus, some scientists believe because of sun exposure. Skin cancer can be an issue, and sensitivity to sun exposure is certainly an issue I contend with. Unfortunately, the lack of Vitamin D leads to internal issues like food intolerances, gastrointestinal problems, and so on. My grandfather was able to fend off the skin cancer while still remaining physically active, but died of stomach cancer.

When there are so many other conditions that could be what the patient may be suffering, it takes a battery of blood tests to rule everything else out. Not fun.

Treatment is also not fun. Initially, the patient may be put on steroids and/or NSAIDs, or stronger meds if more serious organic issues are to be treated. I had to go on periodic doses of prednisone and a host of meds for RA and thyroid problems until I could get my body more-or-less under control. Not fun, and it took years!

I haven't had a relapse, at least not a serious or long one, since I started marathon training nearly 4 years ago. It's not easy to run, or even to get up some mornings, but it keeps me going. My grandfather walked several miles a few days/week until he couldn't anymore, and he lived most of his adult life with lupus plus skin cancer.

Some information on Lupus:

March 10, 2008 - 5:59pm


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