According to Medical News Today, lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack normal, healthy tissue. These attacks result in painful symptoms including inflammation, swelling, joint damage, as well as damage to skin, blood, and important organs like the kidneys, heart, and lungs.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), lupus affects between one-and-a-half and two million Americans. Over five million people across the entire world suffer from Lupus. Like most autoimmune diseases, doctors do not know what causes Lupus, but believe it is a combination of both genetic and environmental issues. Although lupus affects both men and women, women are nine times more likely to get diagnosed with the disease, especially between the ages of 15 and 45.
Factors that can cause lupus include stress, overexposure to sunlight, smoking, and certain medicines including antibiotics in the penicillin family. Symptoms of lupus include achy joints, swelling in hands and feet, severe fatigue, chest pain, light sensitivity, blood clotting issues, seizures, weight loss and gain, anxiety, depression, and headaches and memory loss.
Although there is no cure for lupus, some of its symptoms are treated with corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and lifestyle changes like exercise and diet.
I have had my own scares with autoimmune diseases.
I suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, which caused severe toxemia during my pregnancies, where my body attacked the baby growing inside of me. My body was not able to tell the baby growing inside of me was a natural experience and my body attacked with such ferocity that I had to have an emergency C-sections during both of my pregnancies.
A few years ago I experienced crippling joint pain in my shoulders and hips. I consulted doctors and specialists who tested me for every autoimmune disease they could think of. Lupus. Rheumatoid Arthritis. About the same time my cousin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease similar to lupus where his body attacks his healthy cells and causes him severe, crippling pain in increments suffers describe as “episodes.” MS and Lupus episodes come on randomly throughout life, and can be triggered by stress or other environmental issues.
Luckily, my tests came back inconclusive, and my joint pain stopped as I cut out all artificial sweetener. However, I am not convinced that my “allergy” to artificial sweetener is the disease I suffer from as much as a symptom of some larger disease I have yet to be diagnosed for. I spent this weekend in the ER for severe cramping and pain in my right hip and leg. I am on strong pain medicine and already missed a day of work. The pain I am used to, but it was the concern about where the pain came from that scared me into going to the ER. The doctor thinks swelling in my leg and hip pinched my sciatic nerve, causing my crippling pain. So far the anti-inflammatory medicine is helping, but as I experience another “episode” of crippling joint pain that seemingly came from nowhere, I wonder if there isn’t something larger wrong with me that I am missing.