Lupus Hits Black Women Harder and Younger

African-American women disproportionately suffer from lupus, a devastating autoimmune disease. 

Posted: 10/29/2013 11:51 AM EDT

While many of the high-profile Black celebs with lupus are male — Seal, Trick Daddy and Nick Cannon — a new study confirms that the face of the disease is more like Toni Braxton’s — Black and female.

As part of a new national registry for lupus, researchers from the Emory University and the University of Michigan were the first institutions to turn in their data. They both found that Black women not only disproportionately suffer from this disease, but have been diagnosed at a younger age with higher rates of severe complications such as kidney failure compared to white women.

“Black women had very high rates of lupus, with an incidence rate in Georgia nearly three times higher than that for white women, with significantly high rates in the 30-39 age group,” says principal investigator, S. Sam Lim, associate professor of rheumatology at Emory University School of Medicine in a press release.

Lim adds, “These are young women in the prime of their careers, family and fertility. This means a severely compromised future with a disease that waxes and wanes, affecting every aspect of daily living for the rest of their lives.”

Even worse, researchers believe that these numbers represent just the “tip of the iceberg,” given that lupus is so hard to diagnose. They believe that with expanded research that includes more state data, these rates could be much higher, affecting many more Black women.

It’s important to note that lupus can be devastating.

This chronic autoimmune disease wreaks havoc on the skin, joints and organs. Normally, one’s immune system fights off infections, viruses and germs by creating antibodies to protect from such “invaders” by attacking them. Yet with lupus, your immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy tissues or invaders so they attack indiscriminately, destroying the healthy tissue too.

Unfortunately, there is no cure yet for lupus, and doctors have no idea what causes the disease either. Lupus can be debilitating and in some cases cause death. Thankfully, there is a range of treatment that can help lessen symptoms and treat other illnesses that come with the disease such as infections, hypertension and osteoporosis (the weakening of the bones).

Learn more about the disease at the Lupus Foundation of America.

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(Photo: Digitalskillet/GettyImages)

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