Recognizing Lupus Awareness Month
May is Lupus Awareness Month.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects many different parts of the body. This disease can impact any organ or tissue – the skin, joints, heart, or kidneys. It is often a hidden illness because many people diagnosed don’t appear sick. Depending on the severity of an individual’s symptoms, many can live a normal life most of the time.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, no two cases of Lupus are exactly alike. Common symptoms of the disease are joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and fevers. These symptoms can come and go over time and vary in intensity. Although Lupus is most often diagnosed in women ages 15-44, it can also affect men and children and lasts a lifetime.
Working and Living with Lupus
Eileen Connor, a Medical Assistant at St. Luke’s Hospital, has been living with lupus for about 35 years. “Many people don’t even know they have it until it is discovered by a physician,” she says. “It took a little while before they discovered it in me.”
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose, as there is currently no single blood test to identify it, and its symptoms often mimic those of other diseases.
“When I first had gone to my doctor, I was experiencing a little bit of joint pain, and my lab tests came back abnormal. Then one day, I broke out in a rash on my face; my doctor ordered a biopsy. That’s when I was diagnosed with Lupus,” Eileen says.
Early diagnosis can be key in the management and treatment of this disease. Lifestyle changes such as a plant-based diet and limited sunlight exposure can also help manage symptoms as well as medication in more severe cases.
“The hard part about this disease is that you can work every day and look perfectly fine, but no one really knows what you feel like,” she says.
Southcoast Health Treats Lupus
Lupus has affected many parts of Eileen’s body, but she continues to live a normal life with continuous treatment. Eileen is treated for Lupus right here at Southcoast Health.
“We’re very lucky to have a lot of good doctors in the area, and there is always someone from the office checking up on me,” she says. “Eventually you can learn to work with the disease, but you have to be very diligent about going to your appointments and following up with your rheumatologist. With this disease, you have to keep going, but within reason.”
Eileen describes having both good and bad days with this disease. Even on her bad days, she feels fortunate that she is still able to do most of the things she loves. She is also thankful for the strong support system that she has both at home and work! At work, two members of her team, Tiffanie Miranda and Matilda Viera, are also living and working with Lupus. When dealing with this chronic illness, it truly is all about finding a balance of what works best for you.
Research shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans know very little about or had not heard of Lupus before. This May, the Lupus Foundation of America is inviting people to wear purple, on Friday, May 21, to spread awareness of this disease and help encourage others to notice symptoms to get diagnosed earlier.