When I mention lupus to my patients, sometimes I get a confused look because it’s not a well-understood condition. People wonder why the body would attack itself, as is the case with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
Here are five surprising facts that many people don’t know about lupus:
1. Lupus affects nine times more women than men, and more women of color than white women.
I’ve diagnosed men, senior citizens and toddlers with lupus. But women of childbearing age — 13 to 49 — are far more likely to be affected.
Genetics also plays a role. If you’re a woman with no family history of lupus, your chances of getting lupus are about one in 400. If your parents or a sibling has lupus, your chances jump to one in 25.
African-American and Latina women with no family history of lupus have about a one in 250 chance of developing the disease.
2. Lupus symptoms can differ greatly from person to person.
Some symptoms are common to other conditions, too, which can make diagnosis difficult. Common lupus symptoms include:
- Constant fatigue
- Achy joints
- A butterfly-shaped rash around the cheeks and nose
- Hair loss
- Blood clots
- Sensitivity to light
- Chest pain when breathing
- Mouth sores
- Swelling in the extremities or around the eyes