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Myths About Lupus — an article on the Smart Living Network
December 26, 2007 at 10:22 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Myths About Lupus

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Lupus is a poorly understood disease that affects more than five million people worldwide. No one can say what causes it or how. No one really understands the course of the disease, or why, to some, it is little more than an inconvenience when others suffer terribly. Perhaps this lack of definite knowledge is why there are so many myths about it.

Myth: Lupus is very rare.

Truth: More people suffer from lupus than AIDS.

Myth: People who spend a lot of time with lupus patients can catch the disease from them.

Truth: Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It is caused by a malfunction in the immune system that causes the body to identify its own cells as invaders and attack them. It is not contagious.

Myth: Only women can get lupus.

Truth: Lupus is most prevalent in women of child-bearing age (about ninety percent of patients fit this category), but it can strike anyone, of any gender or age.

Myth: Women with lupus should not get pregnant.

Truth: Women with lupus do experience more trouble during their pregnancies, but with proper planning and care, many of these women can deliver normal babies without danger to themselves.

Myth: Lupus is a genetic disorder.

Truth: The disease does have a genetic component, but only about five percent of children of lupus patients will develop the disease.

Myth: Lupus is easily treatable and does not require a specialist.

Truth: Most doctors are not equipped to deal with the complexity of the disease. Patients should see a rheumatologist.

Myth: Lupus can be cured.

Truth: As of right now, there is, sadly, no cure. However, with proper care and treatment, many people are able to live fairly normal lives.

Myth: Lupus is not deadly.

Truth: While proper care and treatment have improved the outcome, and many people with lupus are able to live relatively normal lives, the disease can still be very dangerous, and, in some cases, lethal.

Myth: A rash on the face is a sure sign of lupus.

Truth: Although the "butterfly rash" that covers the cheeks and nose and usually occurs as a result of sun exposure is a classic sign of lupus, not everyone with a facial rash has lupus. Conversely, many people who have lupus do not develop a rash.

Myth: A positive antinuclear antibody test (ANA) always indicates lupus.

Truth: ANAs are used for screening for autoimmune diseases. However, the test is not one-hundred percent accurate. False positives can occur, and this happens more frequently as the age of the patient increases. More test are usually required for a conclusive diagnosis.

Myth: Patients with lupus who never develop the butterfly rash are not sensitive to sunlight.

Truth: Even if they do not develop a rash, the changes in the skin due to sun-exposure can cause chemicals to be released from dying cells. These chemicals provide a further irritant to the already sensitive immune-system which immediately goes into over-drive, causing problems throughout the body. Because of this, proper protection from the sun is an essential part of any treatment program.

Myth: If I don't have any symptoms, I don't need to take medication.

Truth: Lupus flares may not always produce visible symptoms, but this does not mean that they are any less dangerous. Many internal organs can be affected, and this can lead to serious damage if left untreated. It is essential that lupus patients continue to take their medication even when they are feeling well. Lupus is a chronic condition. In most cases, medical treatment is necessary throughout the life of the patient. All of the medications commonly used to treat lupus have unfortunate side-effects. Over a lifetime, this can be quite a burden. A big part of the treatment process involves coming to terms with the disease, accepting the limitations imposed by the disease, and finding ways to continue enjoying life despite them.

Sources:

http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/ana/test.html

http://www.lupuscenter.org/mythfact.html

http://lupus.slu.edu

http://www.medicine.northwestern.edu/divisions/rheumatology/lupus-studies/information/lupusinfo.htm

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