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Learn more about Lupus during awareness month

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Melissa Pantuso



What is Lupus? Many people have very little to no knowledge of what Lupus is or have never even heard  of it.

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

May is Lupus Awareness Month, and the Lupus Foundation of America (www.lupus.org) promotes increasing understanding of the disease this month and is raising money to help treatment and research.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.

Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.

Tiffany Lambert, sales and service representative for First Citizens Bank in Bryson City, suffers from Lupus. 

“Luckily, it was caught at an early stage,” she explains of her own experience. “Even though I had symptoms of Lupus, it was not until my skin was being attacked that caused me to find out what was happening. In January of this year, I was diagnosed with Connective Tissue Disease. 

“After many tests and thousands of dollars and a series of hefty co-pays, I was diagnosed with Lupus and will hopefully start treatment soon,” she said. “Treatments vary depending on what is being attacked in your body, whether it be medication up to chemotherapy. 

“Some people say, ‘You Don’t Look Sick!’ This is very saddening, because people around us don’t understand it. Those of us who have been diagnosed with Lupus don’t even understand it. Going outside to enjoy the beautiful weather is no longer an option. The simplest things are often too much to stand.”

There is certain criteria that must be met in order to be diagnosed with Lupus:

Malar rash: butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose

Discoid (skin) rash: raised red patches

Photosensitivity: skin rash as a result of unusual reaction to sunlight

Mouth or nose ulcers: usually painless

Nonerosive Arthritis (bones around joints do not get destroyed): in 2 or more joints with tenderness, swelling, or effusion

Cardio-pulmonary involvement: inflammation of the lining around the heart (pericarditis) and/or lungs (pleuritis)

Neurologic disorder: seizures and/or psychosis/cognitive dysfunction

Renal (kidney) disorder: excessive protein in the urine, or cellular casts in the urine

Hematologic (blood) disorder: hemolytic anemia, low white blood cell count, or low platelet count

Immunologic disorder: antibodies to double stranded DNA, antibodies to Sm, or antibodies to cardiolipin

Antinuclear antibodies (ANA): positive test in absence of drugs known to induce it

Although these are just criteria that is used to diagnose lupus, there are many symptoms including:

• Constant Fever

• Chest Pain (Pleurisy)

• Fatigue (about 90%)

• Butterfly Rash (about 50%)

• Sores in nose and mouth (unpainful)

• Pericarditis

• Anemia

• Arthritis

• Photosensitivity

• Hair Loss (usually due to Kidney involvement)

• Reynauds

Heart and kidney failure are the main two organs that can lead to death.

May 10th was Lupus Day. People wear Purple in honor of anyone you know that may struggle with this terrible disease. Donations can be made online at www.lupus.org.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Lupus, consult your primary care physician and talk with them about testing. Don’t wait. It may save your life.

Smoky Mountain Times

Mailing Address:
PO Box 730
1 River Street
Bryson City, NC 28713 
Phone: 828-488-2189
Fax: 828-488-0315