What is Lupus?
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans and roughly five million people worldwide have a form of lupus. Education is the first step for your family and friends to understand what you’re going through. While it may be frustrating to explain what lupus is on multiple occasions, most people truly do not understand what lupus is or what it looks like as a condition. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (ex: skin, joints and/or organs) and therefore, affects people in different ways — ranging from mild to life-threatening symptoms. There is currently no cure for lupus, but treatment options make symptoms more manageable.
What could the symptoms look like?
Lupus is most commonly developed in women between the ages of 15-44, however, it can also affect men and children. The most commonly recognized symptom of lupus is a butterfly shaped rash on a person’s face (typically where the sun would naturally hit your cheeks and nose), but all of the symptoms are far more wide-ranging and less easy to notice from the outside looking in. Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain and/or swelling
- Photosensitivity (skin rash that worsens with sun exposure)
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon (fingers or toes that turn white or blue with cold exposure or stress)
- Blood clots
- Breathing problems
- Anemia (low count of red blood cells)
- Chest pain
- Confusion and/or memory loss
- Dry eyes
Be Honest and Communicate
If you’re having a flare-up, be honest about it. If you don’t tell people what you’re going through, they won’t necessarily be able to tell. One of the hardest parts of having a chronic illness (or really just being human in general) is learning to ask for the support you need when you need it. If you’re having trouble, rely on the people who love you to come through for you. Remember that your friends and family likely aren’t mind-readers, so be specific about what they can do to help and understand.