Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease that affects about 1.5 million adults and children in the United States. If you have lupus, your immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen.
The immune attack then creates a range of symptoms that can affect everything from your skin to your eyes to your muscles.
At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, we recommend staying on top of your symptoms if you’re at increased risk for lupus. Although incurable, lupus no longer has to be deadly. In fact, thanks to early treatment options, just 10-15% of people with lupus die from complications of the disease.
Risk factors for lupus
Lupus symptoms can often be mistaken for other conditions, such as arthritis and chronic fatigue. If you fit into any of these five risk factor categories and are experiencing unusual symptoms, ask us for a lupus evaluation.
If you were born female, you’re more likely than a man to develop lupus. Nine out of 10 people with lupus are female.
Caucasians do develop lupus, but non-caucasian races are at greater risk, possibly due to health disparities in the cultures. You’re most at risk for lupus if you’re:
- African American
- Asian American
- Native American
- Pacific Islander
Nobody yet knows whether it’s DNA that plays a role in this increase in non-Caucasian races, or other factors such as stress and the environment. Still, if you’re non-white and notice troubling symptoms such as a rash, joint pain, or vision problems, ask for a lupus evaluation.
Other autoimmune diseases
Since lupus is a disorder of your immune system that attacks healthy tissues, you’re more likely to have it if you have another autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions that may accompany lupus are:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Addison’s disease
- Grave’s disease
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Autoimmune vasculitis
- Pernicious anemia
- Celiac disease
One in three people with lupus have multiple autoimmune disorders. If you already know you have one, stay extra alert to the symptoms of lupus so you can get appropriate treatment.
Most lupus sufferers are diagnosed in their teens or early adulthood. You’re most likely to develop lupus between the ages of 15 and 44, especially if you’re female. A lupus diagnosis in women usually coincides with their reproductive years.
There’s a type of lupus that develops as a result of high doses of certain medications. Prescription medications that can cause drug-induced lupus include:
- Hydralazine for high blood pressure
- Procainamide for irregular heart rhythm
- Isoniazid for tuberculosis
Although lupus affects women disproportionately more than men, men are more likely to suffer from drug-induced lupus. That’s because men typically have the health conditions that require medications associated with lupus. Discontinuing the drug usually resolves the lupus.
Stay alert to symptoms
If you’re in one or more of the five high-risk groups for lupus, don’t ignore changes in the way you feel, function, or look. Since lupus mimics other diseases, it usually takes about six years to get an accurate diagnosis. Classic symptoms of lupus include:
- Butterfly rash on your face
- Joint pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Generalized pain
- Sensitivity to light or sunshine
- Sores on your mouth
- Cognitive difficulties
- Memory problems
- Chest pain
- Red or dry eyes
Find out if you have lupus and, if so, get the early treatment you need by contacting your nearest Rheumatology Center of New Jersey office today. We have locations in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.