Make May Purple
May is here! Spring is in full swing and it’s Lupus Awareness Month!
The first question you may be asking yourself, “What is Lupus Awareness Month?” We will dive right into that and explain what Lupus is and why it is important!
The next question that might pop into your mind, “How can I do anything about it?” And we’ve got you covered there too!
It is believed that approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have lupus, so chances are you know someone—a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker—who has it. And it is always a good idea to be lend a helping hand, be a source of support and spread awareness about something that affects so many people!
What is Lupus?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Lupus is “a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.”
“Chronic” lupus means that the symptoms of this inflammation often last longer than six weeks to many years.
Lupus compromises the immune system by negatively affecting the body’s antibodies, which protect against foreign invaders such as viruses, germs, and bacteria.
Instead, people with lupus experience “Autoimmunity” meaning the body cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders and the body’s healthy tissues. So, the body creates autoantibodies that attack healthy tissue.
Lupus is not at all contagious. Lupus is not similar to or related to cancer, HIV or AIDS.
Every single year, over 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported in the United States.
Lupus disproportionately affects women of color who are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians. Lupus usually develops in women of childbearing age. However, people of all ages, genders, race and ethic groups can and have developed lupus.
Causes & Risk Factors Associated with Lupus
There is no definitive singular cause for lupus. However, many studies have indicated that lupus can develop based on a combination of internal and external factors. These factors include hormones, genetics, and environment.
Cause #1: Hormones
Because nine out of ten people who have lupus are female, scientists have studied the relationship between estrogen and lupus. Hormones such as estrogen are the messengers of our bodies that regulate a large list of the body’s functions.
Studies have found that lupus symptoms can be more prominent before menstrual periods or during pregnancy during which estrogen production is at an all time high.
However, studies have no found a causal affect between estrogen and lupus, which has led researchers to identify other differences between men and women other than hormonal that may contribute to lupus.
Cause #2: Genetics
Like many autoimmune diseases, lupus is believed to be hereditary.
In fact, scientists have now found over 50 different genes that they believe are associated with lupus. People with lupus are more likely to carry these genes than people who do not. Many of the genes do not exhibit a causal affect, but many are believed to contribute to lupus.
Yet, genes are not the entire story. In fact, it is common that only one person within a set of identical twins develops lupus. However, these same studies do indicate that genes have something to do with it. There is an sharp increase in the likelihood of one twin developing lupus if the other one has already developed it—approximately 30% for identical twins and 5-10% for fraternal twins.
Additionally, the fact that certain ethnic groups have a greater risk of developing lupus indicates that genes are involved.
Cause #3: Environment
Today, scientists believe that an external environmental agent (such as a chemical or virus) encountered by a genetically susceptible individual can trigger lupus.
However, this is currently just a hypothesis and no specific environmental agent has been identified. Researchers most often point to ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB), silica dust (in agricultural or industrial settings) or infections.
Why Lupus Matters?
A recent study by researchers at UCLA found that the lupus is a leading causes of death in young women! In fact, the study found that 28,411 females died to lupus between 2000 and 2015, making it the 10th leading cause of death for women between age 15 and 24. In black and Hispanic women, lupus ranks 5th in women between the age of 15 and 24.
Sandra C. Raymond, the CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America, stated, “This eye opening study funded by the Lupus Foundation of America truly shows that we need better treatment options for children and teens as well as all those living with lupus… We’re asking all Americans to Go Purple this May to spread awareness, raise funds and take part in the fight against lupus.”
About Lupus Awareness Month
Now that you know about lupus and how much more research needs to be done to understand this deadly autoimmune disease, let’s dig deep into what Lupus Awareness Month is and how you can make a difference!
The Lupus Foundation of America sponsors Lupus Awareness Month in May every year. It aims to spread the awareness of Lupus and raise funds for research.
Lupus awareness is very low. In fact, almost two thirds of Americans know little to nothing about this autoimmune disease!
However, the Lupus Foundation of America has created strategies and resources so that people like you can change that!
How to Get Involved with Lupus Awareness Month
Your involvement in Lupus Awareness Month can be big or small—anything counts! The three main ways that you can get involved during this month is by becoming a fundraiser, spreading the word, and going purple.
The Lupus Foundation of America has provided a simple formula for becoming a fundraiser. First, create a fundraiser. Next, share your story. And Lastly, raise funds and make your mark on lupus! They provide ideas and materials on their website such as throwing a party, a 5K or fashion show. Visit lupusawarenessmonth.org for more info!
Spreading awareness about lupus is as easy as posting onto your social media page. On Twitter, use the #LupusAwarenessMonth or #LAM18 hashtag. On Facebook, share posts such as: “Did you know that 90 percent of people diagnosed with lupus are women? Learn more about the signs and symptoms this Lupus Awareness Month by visiting Resources.Lupus.org.” And take part in #LupusFactFriday. There are many great resources on lupusawarenessmonth.org!
Lastly, if you want to be involved in Lupus Awareness Month, take part in Put On Purple Day on May 18th. While wearing purple on this day, strike up a conversation about your outfit and spread the word about this important cause!
Any involvement at all can make a significant difference in the fight against lupus. Make sure to check out lupusawarenessmonth.org!