Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects women more often than men. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, young women of color between the ages of 15 and 45 are most likely to be affected by lupus.
Currently, there is no known cause of lupus. It is not a communicable disease and is not definitively linked to genetics. It is suspected that hormones trigger the disease since it is most common during childbearing years. Lupus is of major concern to women since it can increase the risk of other health conditions, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Women with lupus are at a higher risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.
There is no hard and fast list of symptoms associated with lupus, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. However common signs and symptoms include:
- Joint pain, which may be accompanied with swelling
- Muscle weakness, aches, and pains
- Mysterious fevers
- Chronic fatigue
- Facial rashes
- Unusual weight changes
- Kidney problems
- Hair loss
- Memory fog and confusion
Less common symptoms include:
- Mouth sores
Marla Ahlgrimm reports that lupus “comes and goes” in unpredictable cycles called flares. Different individuals have different triggers but many people find that excessive exposure to sun, fatigue, stress, infection, injury, and certain medications can exacerbate symptoms
Since lupus has so many different symptoms, it is difficult to diagnose, especially in children. Unfortunately, it is often mistaken for other conditions and cannot be diagnosed with a single test. Instead, a doctor must take into consideration medical history, family history of lupus or similar autoimmune diseases, and blood and urine tests. Marla Ahlgrimm reports that a kidney biopsy may also be necessary to confirm signs of an autoimmune disorder.
Lupus is treated with medication to reduce inflammation and calm the immune system. These include corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
Women can still become pregnant during a flare; babies born to women with the condition face the same risk of birth defects as babies born to healthy mothers.