May Is National Lupus Awareness Month

Nick Cannon drew attention when he reavealed in March that he was suffering from the chronic inflammatory disease. It's time to recognize the symptoms and treatment.

Posted: 05/01/2012 12:00 PM EDT

Earlier this year, Nick Cannon announced that among many of his recent health issues, he had also been diagnosed with lupus nephritis, a potentially life-threatening auto-immune disease affecting his kidneys. He isn't alone. Grammy winner and reality star Toni Braxton, America's Next Top Model Mercedes Yvette, singer Seal, and rapper Trick Daddy have also suffering from a form of this serious chronic inflammatory disease.

 

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that there are 1.5 million women in the U.S living with lupus. While it's unknown what exactly causes the disease, experts are clear about the following:

 

African-American women are three times more likely to develop the disease than white women.

—Black women are more likely to develop the disease at a younger age and tend to have more severe symptoms than white women.

—Experts also know that the disease is more common in women than men and women ages 15-40.

 

So what exactly is lupus?

 

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that attacks the body's own healthy tissues and organs. It can damage the joints, skin, kidneys and other parts of the body. There are three types of lupus:

 

Systemic Lupus erythematosus: The most serious form of lupus. This type harms the skin, mouth, kidneys, brain, lungs and heart.

Discoid  lupus: Lupus that mainly affects the skin.

Drug-induced lupus: This type of Lupus is caused by medications, but goes away when you stop taking your prescribed medication.

 

Lupus symptoms are not always the same in every person, but according to Women's.Gov, here are some common symptoms:

 

—Joint pain and stiffness, with or without swelling

—Muscle aches and pains

—Fever with no known cause

—Feeling very tired

—Skin rashes

Anemia  

—Trouble thinking, memory problems, confusion

—Kidney problems with no known cause

—Chest pain when taking a deep breath

—Butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks

—Sun or light sensitivity

—Hair loss

 

It's important to note that in some cases lupus can go into remission, and in other cases the disease flares up. There are different forms of treatment for lupus, yet which treatment you take depends on your symptoms and its severity of the disease.

 

There is some good news though.

 

If you do have lupus, there are some steps that you can take to lessen the incidence of flare-ups. Mayo Clinic suggests:

 

—Get adequate rest because with lupus comes extreme fatigue. Take naps often and get plenty of rest.

—Use sunscreen and cover up your skin, because ultraviolet light can trigger a flare-up.

—Exercise regularly because it can help you recover from a flare-up.

—Stop smoking because smoking can worsen the effects of lupus on your heart and blood vessels.

—Eat a healthy diet with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

 

To learn more about lupus, go here.

 

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(Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images for NBCUniversal)

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