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Are You at Risk for Lupus?

By on May 15, 2011

Ever wonder how did international singer, Seal get those scars on his famous face? The scars on the singer’s face are the result of  discoid lupus erythematosus, a type of lupus involving only the skin. Seal and fellow crooner Toni Braxton both have lupus.

Lupus is more common among women although men can be vulnerable, especially black men. Lupus is  a lifelong disorder of the immune system, where immune cells attack the body’s own healthy tissue. Symptoms can range from skin rashes, joint pain and in severe cases damage to the heart and other vital organs. There is no cure. Treatment and lifestyle changes can help you manage the condition.


Doctors don’t know what causes lupus in many cases but there are factors that may increase your risk of the disease, including:

  • Age. It’s most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 40.
  • Race. Lupus is more common in blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
  • Sunlight. Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people. Damaged skin cells also seem to die more frequently in people with lupus, leading to even more inflammation.
  • Certain prescription medications. Drug-induced lupus results from the long-term use of certain prescription drugs. Drugs most clearly linked with the disease include the antipsychotic chlorpromazine; high blood pressure medications, such as hydralazine (Apresoline); the tuberculosis drug isoniazid and the heart medication procainamide (Pronestyl, Procanbid), among other drugs.


Lupus is treatable but you have to do your part and take steps to care for your body. For example try to:

  • Get enough rest relaxation. People with lupus often experience persistent fatigue that’s different from normal tiredness and that isn’t necessarily relieved by rest. For that reason, it can be hard to judge when you need to slow down. Get plenty of sleep a night and naps or breaks during the day as needed. Friends and family members need to understand and respect your need for rest.
  • Be smart about the sun—regardless of race. Ultraviolet light can trigger a flare-up, wear protective clothing, such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and use sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 every time you go outside.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise can help you recover from a flare-up, reduce your risk of heart attack, help fight depression and promote general well-being. Exercise as much as your body allows — aim for 30 total minutes of activity most days of the week, which can be divided up throughout the day.
  • Stop smoking now. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and can worsen the effects of lupus on your heart and blood vessels.
  • Eat healthy –like you mean it. A healthy diet centered on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Diagnosing lupus is very challenging because signs and symptoms vary from person to person. And symptoms of lupus may change over time, overlapping with many other disorders. That is why it’s critical to ask questions of your doctor. Many doctors may not initially consider lupus until the signs and symptoms become more obvious. So be careful and stay healthy.

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