The bad news: Latinas and other women of color are three times likelier to develop lupus, a debilitating immune system disease that attacks healthy cells and tissues all over the body. The good news: For the first time in 50 years, there is a drug to treat this painful condition.
The medication Benlysta was approved this week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), giving hope to the 1.5 million Americans affected by lupus.
The cause of lupus is unknown, but scientists believe that it is partly genetic. Meaning that relatives of people with the condition are more at risk of being diagnosed with it, as well.
The disease is hard to detect. Known as “the great imitator,” many of its symptoms (tiredness, swelling in joints, abnormal blood clotting, hair loss, mouth ulcers, fever, muscle pain, etc.) are often associated with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, diabetes and heart disease, so it’s important to be extra vigilant if you experience unexplained persistent symptoms.
The hope is that Benylsta will reduce these symptoms. And the Lupus Foundation of America is optimistic, hailing the medication as “the first step toward reaching our goal of developing an arsenal of new, safe, effective, and tolerable treatments.”