The Myths and Facts Surrounding Lupus

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Lupus is a long-term autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation. Although no one knows what causes lupus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes the possible cause as a mix of hereditary, environmental, and hormonal factors. 

Lupus can affect any part of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain, and its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. A condition that affects millions of people worldwide, is still a mystery in many ways. Its global impact underscores the need for greater understanding and awareness.

Myth #1: Lupus is Contagious

One of the most common myths about lupus is that it is contagious – it is not. Lupus cannot be spread through physical contact, saliva, or airborne particles.

Myth #2: Lupus Only Affects Women

While women are nine times more likely to develop lupus than men, it can affect both genders (and all age groups). The disease often presents differently in males, making diagnosis and treatment more challenging. 

Myth #3: Lupus is a Mild Condition

Lupus can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences if left untreated or poorly managed. Symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, fever, hair loss, organ inflammation, and cognitive impairment. Lupus is also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, renal failure, and pregnancy difficulties. 

Myth #4: Lupus is Easily Diagnosed

Lupus is known as the “great imitator” because its symptoms often resemble those of other diseases, resulting in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. To diagnose lupus, healthcare providers rely on a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. 

Myth #5: If You Don’t Have a Rash, It’s Not Lupus

The “butterfly rash” on the face is one of the most recognised symptoms of lupus, but not everyone gets this rash. The absence of a rash does not rule out lupus.

Myth #6: Sun Exposure Has No Effect on Lupus

Many people believe that sunlight does not impact lupus, but UV rays can trigger flare-ups in many individuals with the condition. Sunlight can worsen skin lesions and precipitate systemic reactions in susceptible individuals, making sun protection crucial for those diagnosed with lupus.

Myth #7: There is No Treatment for Lupus

While lupus has no cure, some medicines may help control symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and slow progression. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), antimalarial pharmaceuticals, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologic treatments are among the most regularly used medications for lupus. Treatment plans for lupus are individualised based on the severity of symptoms, the organs involved, and the patient’s overall health and lifestyle.

In addition to medication, lifestyle modifications, such as stress management, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, can also play a crucial role in managing lupus and improving quality of life.