Common Myths about Lupus
Almost 2 million Americans suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes excessive inflammation. Lupus cases have been reported as early as the middle ages. In fact, the disease got its name from a 12th century physician who thought the classic facial rash of many lupus patients gave them the appearance of a wolf, the Latin word for which is lupus. Since then, the mysteries of the disease have generated many explanations, many of them false. Following is a collection of and explanations for some of the most common lupus myths.
Myth #1: Lupus is contagious or can be sexually transmitted.
Because lupus is not caused by a virus, bacterium, or any other infectious agent, it cannot be transmitted sexually or by any other method. While it has been passed from mother to fetus (vertical transmission), lupus has never been reported to transfer horizontally from one individual to another.
Myth #2: Women with lupus should not get pregnant due to an increased risk of birth defects.
On rare occasions, women with System Lupus Erythematosus (the most common form of lupus) have given birth to babies who later developed lupus, about half of which were also born with a heart defect. However, the risk isn't any higher than it is for those without lupus. More than 50% of women with lupus deliver completely healthy and normal babies. Proper medical care (having an obstetrician who is experienced with high risk pregnancies) and preventing flares can greatly increase the chances of a normal pregnancy.
Myth #3: Aspartame can cause lupus flares.
This claim has recently been found by Lupus Foundation of America to be completely untrue. Aspartame causes neither lupus nor its flares.
Myth #4: Hormone Replacement Therapy and Oral contraceptives cause lupus relapses.
A study by headed by Dr. Michelle Petri at The Johns Hopkins University found that this simply isn't the case. We saw no differences in disease relapses between patients on the contraceptive pills or on placebo, stated Dr. Petri. Another article published in 2002 by Dr. GS Cooper found that hormone replacement therapy also had no effect on the development of lupus or lupus flares.
Myth #5: Lupus is a woman's disease.
While the overwhelming majority of those with lupus are women, it can occur in men as well. This disparity has yet to be understood.
Myth #6: Lupus is hereditary.
This myth remains a bit foggy. From the evidence only 5% of those with lupus pass it onto their children it appears as if lupus does not have a strong genetic correlation.
Myth #7: You cannot die from lupus.
Most lupus cases, if caught early and treated aggressively, are not fatal. However, severe cases can cause kidney or heart failure, both of which can be fatal.
Myth #8: Lupus patients are tired from depression.
Probably not; while lupus patients can develop depression, one symptom of which is fatigue, the constant immune activity in lupus patients is much more likely to be the cause of the moderate to severe fatigue they experience.
Myth #9: Most family practitioners are specialized to treat lupus.
Some may be, but most are not. To effectively monitor the subtleties of lupus, it's best to also go to a Rheumatologist, or a doctor who specializes in arthritis (also the result of inflammation cause by autoimmunity). Lupus is currently being heavily researched, helping to shed light on the many mysteries of this chronic inflammatory disease. Although there is currently no cure in sight, there have been many therapies developed to help those with lupus live fairly normal lives.