Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.
In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues (“auto” means “self”) and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). These are some additional facts about lupus from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health:
• Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor.
• Research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus.
• More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
• It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
• Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too. Most people will develop lupus between the ages of 15-44.
• Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians.
• People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
Lupus can be extremely hard to diagnose. The most common symptoms of lupus, which are the same for females and males, are:
• Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
• Painful or swollen joints
• Anemia (low numbers of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
• Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
• Pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
• Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
• Sun- or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
• Hair loss
• Abnormal blood clotting
• Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
• Mouth or nose ulcers
Many of these symptoms occur in other illnesses. In fact, lupus is sometimes called “the great imitator” because its symptoms are often like the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, fibromyalgia, diabetes, thyroid problems, Lyme disease, and a number of heart, lung, muscle, and bone diseases.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Lupus, or any other illness, and you are being denied benefits by your health or long term disability insurer, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation at 888-569-6013. We can help!