In the news today it was announced that Selena Gomez is taking some time off to care for herself in dealing with the effects of lupus. Good for her! She is not alone in fighting this disease and is, in fact, one of a growing number of us affected by an autoimmune disorder. Yes, I said “us” as I am counted in that number and can speak to the fight that she is going through. I am happy that she is speaking out and doing what she needs to do for herself. We all need to do that, although it’s not easy and it’s not always even possible.
Facts & Figures: Autoimmune diseases are one of the fastest growing categories of disease. To put this in perspective and recognize the widespread impact it has, cancer affects up to 9 million people and heart disease up to 22 million. According to estimates (below), 50 million people may be affected by an autoimmune disease. Despite the vast number of people affected, funding for research into this area of health is woefully inadequate, as are treatment options. It is estimated, and expected then, that direct healthcare costs are double those of cancer.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc.: https://www.aarda.org/
“The National Institutes of Health (NIH estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising. We at AARDA say that 50 million* Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Why the difference? The NIH numbers only include 24 diseases for which good epidemiology studies were available.”
“Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening.”
What is an autoimmune disease? It is one of a group of diseases whereby the body’s immune system attacks itself, thinking it’s an enemy. This affects everybody differently and can range from relatively minor to severe, from intermittent to chronic, and can change on a dime, day to day or hour to hour. Can you imagine the impact that this has, not only on your body, but on your mind and your emotional state?
Symptoms and Diagnoses: In talking about lupus, we naturally move into a broader discussion of autoimmune disease because rarely do people get just one autoimmune disease or disorder. They typically come in groups, either together or over the course of several years. There are literally dozens of various symptoms that are associated with autoimmune disorders and even lupus specifically. Some of these can include fever, fatigue, headaches or migraines, joint and muscle pain and/or stiffness, skin rashes and/or photosensitivity, hair loss, blood disorders, chest pain, organ involvement (especially kidneys) and mental issues such as difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and confusion.
Following is an informative video posted on the AARDA website that explains a bit more about the symptoms of various autoimmune diseases, diagnoses, and tests.
So how do you know how this will impact your life? You don’t. That’s part of the problem and one that is very difficult to overcome. Not only do you have to deal with lupus itself and the way it affects your life, but just the fact that you have it now increases your risk of not only other autoimmune diseases, but other health conditions as well, which can include heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease. The fact that this is a chronic disease means that you now have it, you own it. It will never go away. The most that you can do is manage your disease to the best of your ability and that will differ for every single person that has it. It’s a trial and error process, one that you will be involved in with your team of doctors. It’s a long process and the problems of depression and anxiety are quite understandable given the nature of the disease. The unpredictability, the changes that you have to make to accommodate your condition, and the loss of your life as you knew it before, are all key in handling your mental, emotional and physical health.
More information about lupus is available through the Lupus Foundation of America here: http://www.lupus.org/. You can find an article here, as well, about how Selena Gomez is highlighting the mental health aspect of lupus. For information on lupus and depression, click here: http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/can-lupus-cause-depression. According to this article, “Between 15 and 60 percent of people with a chronic illness will experience clinical depression.”
To Selena Gomez and to the rest of us, I say… take the time and the energy to focus on yourself, to heal yourself the best that you can and put yourself in the best position to fight this condition every day for the rest of your life. It may not go away, but we will manage it and come out stronger!
Note: as this is an increasingly relevant topic of conversation, more articles will soon be posted under the health section. I would love to hear back from you on how you are affected by this, by either yourself or someone close to you, and how you manage it. Please feel free to comment!