Lupus is a serious chronic autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself. There is no cure. No one knows for certain what causes lupus, although there is some evidence that there is a genetic component with environmental triggers, such as stress or illness. Symptoms may include joint pain and swelling, chronic fatigue, difficult mobility, photosensitivity, mouth sores, frequent fevers, and even organ damage or death. Almost any organ can be affected.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, some 5 million people worldwide have lupus. While the disease primarily affects women of childbearing age, men and children can also be affected. Persons with lupus often have overlapping diseases, which include scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, polymyositis/dermatomyositis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Persons with lupus often live in pain for long periods of time, either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Even after diagnosis, patients’ options are still limited, as many do not respond to available medications. In addition, many of the medications carry dangerous side effects for long-term use, including organ damage, bone weakness and increased risk of infections.
Until the recent FDA approval of Benlysta in 2011, there was no new drug for lupus in over 50 years! Even then, most drugs were found to help with lupus coincidentally – some of the most common ones originally fought malaria.
As more and more people are diagnosed with lupus, we need to devote more funding toward research, clinical trials and spreading awareness. It’s high time we recognized the severity of this devastating, life-altering disease and embarked on a mission to end it.