Lupus, 'the great imitator' as it is often called, disguises itself to look like other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Lyme disease, various blood disorders, a thyroid problem or any number of other heart, lung, muscle or bone diseases. Because of this, lupus is commonly misdiagnosed.
More than 1 million people in the United States have lupus and those who understand their condition know the daily struggles that come with having this disease. If you are unfamiliar with lupus, it's important to learn the specifics of this devastating disease as well as the research currently underway to develop options that are safe and effective for people with lupus.
* What is lupus? Lupus, otherwise known as systemic lupus erythematosus, is a long-term, autoimmune disorder that affects the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organ systems. While every patient experiences symptoms differently, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, headaches, fever, painful joints, anemia, chest pain, hair loss, abnormal blood clotting or other symptoms are common. These symptoms may come and go and can change throughout the course of the disease.
* Who is at risk for lupus? Lupus can affect any person at any age but it most often affects women between the ages of 15 and 45. Additionally, African American, Hispanic and Asian women have a higher risk of developing lupus.
* How is it diagnosed? There is no single test to diagnose lupus. It may take many months or even years for a doctor to diagnose lupus. A variety of laboratory tests are used to detect and monitor physical changes or conditions that may appear as a result of lupus. Each test helps doctors determine whether a lupus diagnosis is right.
* How is lupus treated? There currently is no cure for lupus. In fact, over the last 50 years only one medication has been approved to treat this disease. While many drugs exist that reduce the signs and symptoms of lupus, these drugs carry side effects of their own, many of them serious, including damage to the body's organs with prolonged use. Treatment plans are created to prevent and treat flares, the reoccurrence of symptoms, and also reduce organ damage.
* What is being done to find future treatment options? Physicians nationwide are participating in a clinical research study called the EMBODY Program to help advance lupus research. This global clinical research study is being conducted to assess the safety and effectiveness of an investigational medication called epratuzumab in people with lupus. Epratuzumab is being evaluated to see if it can help prevent the immune system from attacking healthy tissue, help reduce the level of inflammation and improve the symptoms associated with lupus.
* How can I learn more about this study? To take part you must be 18 years of age or older, diagnosed with lupus and not pregnant or nursing. You can learn more at rethinklupus.com or by calling 855-60-LUPUS.