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The 411 on Lupus

By HERWriter
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Lupus related image Photo: Getty Images

On my sixteen birthday, my dad finally allowed me to have my ears pierced. My birthday celebration with my gal pals was a trip to the local mall where a doctor conducted "medical ear piercings."

As I waited my turn in line, the handsome young doctor asked me about a rash on my face. As a pubescent teen, I figured the rash was a bad case of acne. The Rick Springfield look-alike said, "I don’t want to alarm you, but it is serious and you should see your doctor or dermatologist immediately."

After more than 10 visits to six different doctors, I was diagnosed with discoid or cutaneous lupus erythematosus. One doctor misdiagnosed me with acne.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc., I am one of 1.5 million Americans who has lupus.

My doctor told me, "The Latin translation of lupus is wolf." Many times, lupus patients may develop a rash on the face which resembles a butterfly rash or wolf whiskers on the face. This rash is over the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose.

Lupus primarily affects women between the ages of 15-45. Men, children and babies can have lupus but their situations are rare and unusual. Also, women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus.

There are four types of lupus. Those four types of lupus include:

• Discoid or Cutaneous (skin) Lupus Erythematosus

• Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

• Drug-induced Erythematosus

• Neonatal Lupus

Discoid lupus is limited to the skin. However, approximately 10 percent of people who have discoid lupus may develop SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).

SLE is the most serious and common type of lupus.

Drug-induced erythematosus has the symptoms of lupus and is caused by medications. After the patient ceases taking the medication the symptoms generally disappear.

Neonatal lupus is found in newborns recently born to mothers with lupus.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Lupus Foundation, the following may be symptoms of lupus:

• butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
• hair loss
• painful or swollen joints
• extreme fatigue
• ulcers on the mouth or nose
• headaches
• fevers
• sensitivity to the sun and light
• pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)

Like myself, many lupus patients are misdiagnosed. Lupus has been classified as an invisible disease since many of its symptoms mask other illnesses. Diagnosing lupus can be difficult since no single test can show whether a person has lupus.

There is no known cure for lupus. However, lupus symptoms are manageable with corticosteroids or antimalarials. Also, your doctor may prescribe a topical corticosteroid cream.

Lupus is serious and can be deadly. Depending on the severity of your lupus, it may affect your kidneys, lungs or heart.

However, I am proof positive patients with lupus can have a high quality of life. Lupus and its symptoms are manageable.


LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA - What is Lupus. Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved August 26, 2011, from http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnunderstanding.aspx?articleid=2232&zoneid=523

Lupus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved August 26, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/lupus/id209104.pdf

LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA - What is Lupus. Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved August 26, 2011, from http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnunderstanding.aspx?articleid=2235&zoneid=523

Reviewed August 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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