Local News

One in 185 Stricken with Lupus

Posted July 4, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Charles Kuralt died of lupus, a genetic disease where the body basically attacks itself. While you may not know much about lupus, it's pretty common, affecting one out of every 185 Americans. Although lupus can be life-threatening, thousands of patients are able to lead productive lives.

Millie Shook has lupus. The pain has gotten so bad in her legs that she has to use a motorized cart to get around. She was diagnosed 12 years ago. Shook sought advice because she was having a lot of joint pain and problems with her hands.

Millie also developed a rash that would come and go-- another sign of lupus. There is no cause, but researchers suspect lupus is a genetic autoimmune disease that causes a person's body to attack itself.

Rheumatologist Dr. Walter Chmelewski says these antibodies do damage to skin, muscle, joints and internal organs. And when the body attacks itself, there is pain. There are often times that Millie feels like she just has to stay in bed.

Lupus can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms come and go and often mimic other illnesses. Rheumatoid arthritis is one particular diagnosis which comes up. It involves the same age group and affects the hands with swelling an severe morning stiffness.

Lupus can also be confused with infections and lingering flu. The key is to get to a doctor if you have continuous symptoms.

Lupus is an illness with profound fatigue, unexplained rashes, fevers, chills and joint pain. When these symptoms occur, lupus needs to be thought of and brought up with a physician. There are simple screening tests and exams out there that can point folks in the right or wrong direction.

Millie is moving in the right direction. She's living her life to the fullest even though she has lupus. Lupus is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids. A simple blood test confirms a diagnosis.

For more information about lupus you can contact theLupus Foundation of Americaat 1-800-558-0121.