Before I begin this post, I just want to note that this has been one of the most difficult posts for me to make thus far. Some have been pretty tough - but, this one, by far, is the absolute worst to date.
It's been hard for me to open up about my lupus, and help people try to understand - at least to a small extent - what living with this disease can be like. There are varying reactions when I discuss the disease, and living with lupus - from the listener totally shutting down and walking away to the listener treating me like I'm made of glass. Both extremes can be really tough to deal with - mostly because neither of them are very helpful for the person living with lupus.
Unfortunately, this is a common experience for people living with lupus - or people living with any chronic illness, for that matter. And has a tendency to make the person who is living with lupus or any other chronic illness not want to share their experiences with anyone. It's sort of like getting bit by a dog - it makes you a little leary of going near another dog.
However, since this last flare started, I've felt a constant nudge to share what it is like with you. Not to gain sympathy - but, rather, to help you understand, and potentially be better able to help a loved one who is experiencing either living with lupus or another chronic illness.
Lupus was once considered a "rare" disease, effecting only a few women - mothers, daughters, and wives. However, that is no longer the case as Lupus continues to grow within our population. Scientists aren''t sure why, but nine out of 10 people who have lupus are women. The illness is also more common in blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, and typically strikes those between the ages of 15 and 45 (childbearing age), however, it''s possible to get it younger or older.
If you have "lupus", (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE), you have what''s known as an autoimmune disease. In other words, for reasons that remain unknown, your immune system attacks your own healthy cells. In the case of lupus, they believe that the DNA in your body''s cells is under attack. This causes inflammation and can damage tissues. Most often the disease targets the joints and skin, but the kidneys, bones, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain are also vulnerable. (see below for more information on what lupus most oftens does to each organ system.)