May 10, 2013 is World Lupus Day! It's a call to action to increase financial support for lupus research and raise awareness of lupus as a significant public health issue. An estimated 1.5 million Americans (17,000 in Connecticut) are affected by this debilitating disease. Over 5 million people worldwide struggle with lupus.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a potentially fatal autoimmune disease capable of damaging virtually any part of the body, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, and brain. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that has no cure and no known cause.
No gene or group of genes has been proven to cause lupus. While a person’s genes may increase the chance that they will develop lupus, it takes some sort of environmental factor to trigger the illness or to bring on a flare. Environmental factors include:
- ultraviolet rays from the sun
- ultraviolet rays from fluorescent light bulbs
- an infection
- a cold or a viral illness
- an injury
- emotional stress, such as a divorce, illness, death in the family, or other life complications
- anything that causes stress to the body, such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or giving birth
- sun-sensitizing tetracycline drugs such as minocycline (Minocin)
- penicillin or other antibiotic drugs such as: amoxicillin (Amoxil); ampicillin (Ampicillin Sodium ADD-Vantage); cloxacillin (Cloxapen)
- sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun Sulfa drugs include: trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Brand names: Bactrim, Septra); sulfisoxazole (Gantrisin); tolbutamide (Orinase); sulfasalazine (Azulfidine); diuretics
The sex hormone estrogen plays a role in lupus. Men and women both produce estrogen, but estrogen production is much greater in females. Ninety percent of the people who develop lupus are women. Men also can develop lupus and their disease can be more severe in some organs.
Lupus can be a difficult disease to diagnose. In fact, many people go months and even years before being diagnosed.
World Lupus Day began 9 years ago when an international committee representing lupus organizations from 13 different nations met in Eaton, United Kingdom. World Lupus Day represents a global call for increases in public and private sector funding for lupus research and a call attention to the global impact of this devastating disease.
“World Lupus Day is a time when the worldwide lupus community comes together to shine a light one of the world’s most unpredictable, mysterious, and devastating diseases,” said Sandra C. Raymond, President and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). “Greater awareness will result in more resources and investment in lupus research efforts to find the causes of lupus and discover new safe, tolerable and effective lupus treatments.”
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