8 Lupus Myths Debunked

Lupus is an autoimmune disease with vague and diverse symptoms. Not surprisingly, this means it's difficult to accurately diagnose and fraught with misconceptions. Here are a few false beliefs, along with the facts.

Anyone can have lupus. This is true. However, it typically afflicts women of childbearing age (15 to 44), especially women of color.

Lupus is contagious. You cannot contract lupus from another person.

Lupus is predictable. No two cases of lupus are alike. Lupus can come on suddenly, or develop gradually over time. It can be mild or severe, even life threatening. Symptoms can flare up or go into remission. Unfortunately, physicians cannot predict how lupus will progress in an individual patient.

Lupus mainly affects the joints. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, or organs-virtually every part of the body. Roughly 50 percent of lupus patients develop some form of kidney inflammation, which can lead to kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney damage include increased protein in the urine, elevated creatine (an enzyme) levels in the blood, high blood pressure, and swelling in the feet and lower legs. Lupus patients are also at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Women cannot become pregnant if they have lupus. Lupus can cause pregnancy complications, such as increased risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and preterm births. Fortunately, many lupus patients do carry pregnancies to term and deliver healthy babies-as long as they don't have severe kidney or heart disease and are treating their lupus appropriately. Women should delay pregnancy until they've successfully controlled their lupus for at least six months.

People with lupus should not exercise. This is somewhat controversial. Physical activity can reduce fatigue in some patients, but not all. Excessive exercise can cause fatigue and some forms of exercise can even cause harm. Experts say exercise is best when lupus patients follow an individualized program and gradually increase the intensity if it is not worsening symptoms.

There is a cure for lupus. Perhaps one day there will be a cure for lupus. Until then, physicians treat lupus patients with medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory or anti-malarial drugs, corticosteroids, or immunosuppresants, and encourage life style modifications. For example, energy conservation occupational therapy teaches patients how to use their body carefully and efficiently, balancing work and rest to minimize fatigue, which helps them better manage their disease.

Lupus is not fatal. Generally, this is true; however, lupus can be life threatening. Infections are the leading cause of death in lupus patients.


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National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Fatigue in Autoimmune Diseases: Which Non-drug Treatments Can Help? PubMed Health. Web. 21 August 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0005071/

WomensHealth.gov. "Lupus Fact Sheet." Web. 13 June 2011. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/lupus.cfm