Lupus 101: What You Need To Know About Latinas And The Disease

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What are some of the symptoms of lupus? 

Symptoms can vary from patients to patient, depending on what manifestations of the disease are present in individual cases. Some of the more common symptoms of lupus can be non-specific, or be indications of a wide variety of diseases. These include joint pain, tiredness, mouth sores, kidney problems, or neurological problems, such as seizures or strokes. Additionally, the severity of symptoms will vary widely depending on the patient. 

However, other symptoms are more specific to lupus, such as skin involvement, specifically a malar rash. This butterfly shaped rash frequently shows up on your face and cheeks. Additionally, lupus is a disease that reacts to UV rays in sunlight, so patients often notice rashes on skin that is exposed to the sun. 

For a full list of symptoms see the American College of Rheumatology fact sheet. 

When should I see a doctor? 

Dr. Carlos Lozada suggests seeing a doctor when you notice several initial presentations of the disease. For example, if patients notice an unexplained rash that is occurring in areas that are exposed to the sun or if they are suffering from persisitent joint pain, they should consider seeing their primary care physician. If their primary care physician sees any additional symptoms which could be indicative of lupus, he will recommend them to a rheumatologist. 

Are Latinas more at risk for lupus than other groups?

The short answer is: yes

According to Dr. Lozada, lupus occurs in about one out of every 1,000 people, and nine out of every 10 patients diagnosed are women. 

Additionally, he warns that this is a disease that particularly involves minorities, with Hispanics and African Americans being diagnosed at a higher rate than white women. "That probably has to do mostly with genetics," he says. "It is a disease that occurs more often in women and more often in minorities." 

Most often, lupus starts in patients in their 20s and 30s, so young Latinas must also be aware of the disease. 

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Cristina Arreola, Associate Editor

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