What if I told you that there were 1.5 million people that are in almost constant pain, who suffer largely in silence, as their often invisible illness forces their immune system to work against their bodies?
Everyone knows about heart disease and cancer, which makes sense as they impact 15-million people or more everyday. Even ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and HIV/AIDS are in the public consciousness, even though they affect far fewer people.
Yet more than two-thirds of the population is unaware of Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic autoimmune disease.
A Painful, Often Invisible Illness
Lupus can damage any part of the body: skin, joints, and/or organs. It is challenging to treat, so far there is no cure, and because each person’s symptoms and reaction to the disease vary widely, it’s difficult to diagnose.
Lupus affects people of Asian, African and Native American descent. And while it does not discriminate between the two sexes, 90% of the people diagnosed are women – primarily between the childbearing ages of 14 to 45.
Unfortunately, very little is known about what causes Lupus, or why it affects each person somewhat differently. Lupus is also unpredictable and can change over time. While some people have only minor, ongoing symptoms, others have periodic, often extremely painful flare-ups.
Plus, because Lupus uses the body’s natural defenses to attack healthy cells, the most common treatment is to suppress the body’s immune system, leaving it more vulnerable to other illnesses.
Lupus can also lead to weight loss, weight gain from medication, depression, pregnancy complications and other physical and mental side effects from the disease itself, the side effects of treatment and the frustration of not being able to adequately explain the issue to others.
Treat What You Can
While symptoms do vary, one of the areas of the body most often affected by Lupus is your skin. If you’ve been diagnosed with Lupus, or are close to someone who has, here are a few tips to minimize skin problems:
- Avoid peak sun hours. Because the sun’s UV rays can cause a rash, raised sores, and even make the disease worse, try to avoid the sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
- Cover up – If you can bear it, wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants will cut your exposure to the sun. Also invest in UV-filtering, polarized sunglasses and a hat.
- Always wear sunscreen. Actually, that’s a good tip for anyone. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can damage your skin, so be sure to take protective measures. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30, with either chemical or physical blockers. Reapply every 80 minutes or so.
- Read your labels – many medications used to treat Lupus symptoms, like prednisone, antibiotics and some anti-inflammatories can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Know what you’re taking, and if it does add sun sensitivity, be sure to take extra precautions.
- Medical Makeup – You may develop the butterfly rash or raised sores from Lupus, If so, talk to your doctor about what the best medical skin cover-ups you can get. Corticosteroid creams and injections can help ease the symptoms, not exacerbate them.
Lupus can also cause skin problems inside your mouth and nose. Your doctor can recommend a dental paste that can help, and you can gargle with hydrogen peroxide. To clear away excess bacteria, don’t forget to use your TUNG Brush & Gel for 10 seconds twice a day. It’ll help the healing process and give you fresher breath.
Just because your symptoms may not be visible, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. While there is no cure yet for Lupus, there are people working to change that.
How Can I Help?
The Lupus Foundation of America tries to raise awareness of the illness and raise money to fund a cure every May, with events like “Wear Your PJ’s Day.” This year, consider standing with Lupus sufferers – add a Lupus Awareness Month frame on your social media profiles, or participate in “Put on Purple Day” on May 18th.