I remember my grandmother hiding away. When she had “episodes,” she would complain of feeling tired, said her joints ached. She ran a fever and her hair would fall out. And then there was the rash on her hands and back and most, embarrassingly for her, her face. It was lupus. Although back then, diagnosis was hit and miss and, even when diagnosed, there was little they could do.
I would like to say things have changed. There is still no known cause for lupus, though some say it’s a combination of genes and environment. And there is still no known cure. With lupus your immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation, pain and, ultimately, possible damage to the heart, lungs and kidney..Blood and urine tests are used to help diagnose the disease. The problem is that signs and symptoms vary for one sufferer to the next. The disease often bring on the onset of arthritis, joint ache, fever and the awful rash. My doctor tells me that women are nine times more likely to get lupus than men.
When my lupus first started the first things I noticed were fatigue, fever, bruising and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. My hands ached and the rash started on my arms and spread to my back. I knew that rash and went straight to my doctor.
My doctor, knowing my family history, ran some blood tests and did urinalysis. He examined the rash He diagnosed lupus and prescribed a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or more recently drugs like Celebrix) and steroid creams for the rash. Number one and two rules he said: Take it easy when a “flare” occurs and stay out of the sun. The thing is when lupus hits, you aren’t up to much anyway.
Over the years, my “flares” have been fairly mild, lasting a few weeks and then subsiding into remission. It comes and goes without rhyme or reason. I tend not to get much in the way of a facial rash and I have been lucky in that I have not really suffered any heart or kidney damage. This is due, in part, to early diagnosis and managing the disease by using anti-inflammatory drugs.
You just have to learn to take it one day at a time, get regular check ups and stay in close touch with your doctor. Early detection is key to minimizing the damage the disease inflicts.