March is here, which means Women's History Month is as well! Happy Women's History Month to all of you strong and powerful women, together with our strong Lupus warriors who continue to inspire us daily. To celebrate Women's History Month, we are switching up our monthly "Healthy Habits" and taking a moment this month to educate and inform all women about how Lupus specifically impacts women: women of color, women with Lupus, all women.
Spring is nearly here, which means many women will be practicing their lifestyle, whether it be enjoying time outdoors with loved ones, home-cooked meals, or grabbing a beverage with the girls! With this said, it is essential for us to at Inspira to address and inform women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and cultures about how Lupus affects women specifically. Through our March blog post, we are striving to inform and educate several about the many impacts Lupus has on women to help prevent potential diagnosis. Ultimately, to help each person increase their knowledge of Lupus as a whole.
Did you know that nine out of ten people with Lupus are women? And that Lupus is two to three more times common among women who are African American, Latinos/Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and other Pacific Islanders? Between all women and all races, Lupus has the power to impact each so differently. Those who have a higher risk of developing Lupus are women of ages 15-44 and certain ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American.
We have discussed some of the causes of Lupus and actions one can take to help prevent them from ever being diagnosed in our previous blog posts and on our Instagram. The lack of information on the exact cause of Lupus makes the knowledge of symptoms all the more critical. Some overall symptoms of Lupus include "hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, a facial rash, dry eyes, trouble breathing, headaches, confusion, and memory loss, among other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic" (self.com). As it can be challenging to know when to consider the symptoms you may be experiencing as Lupus because some signs stated often overlap with other conditions, we have provided common characteristics based on specific ethnicities and skin types to determine/be aware of any potential symptoms.
Lupus Impacting The African American Women and Hispanic Communities:
Two studies conducted by the Lupus Research Alliance found 90 percent of people diagnosed with Lupus were young women. However, African American and Hispanic women diagnosed with Lupus are at much higher rates than the rates found in caucasian women. Women of the Hispanic and African American communities are at a higher risk of experiencing complications due to Lupus. Additionally, these two studies with two approaches focused on depicting systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of Lupus. The Manhattan Lupus Surveillance Program grasped the Manhattan area, tracking Lupus throughout the population during 2007-2009, while the other followed those who are enrolled in Medicaid and have Lupus. They found in Manhattan that Caucasian women were diagnosed with Lupus at a rate of 51.4 per 100,000 per year; while African American women at a rate of 133.1 women per 100,000, Asian women at a rate of 118.5 Hispanic women at 14. Lupus has a more significant impact on women of other races more than the Caucasian population. Furthermore, research from the Lupus Foundation of America and the CDC describes how African American and Latino women tend to develop Lupus at a younger age, giving an explanation to Lupus affecting 1 in 537 young African American women. They are involved with more severe symptoms such as kidney problems and have a higher death rate. Seizures, strokes, and swelling of the heart are more common in African American women. Hispanic women also tend to have more heart problems than other races.
Something paramount to note specifically for the Latino/Hispanic community is Lupus's impact on the kidneys. Dr. Ortiz-Melo expresses how Latinas have a higher risk of Lumbar osteoarthritis, a form of degenerative arthritis in the lower back, causing a plethora of inflammation between joints.
It is vital to be aware of the color of urine, one's blood pressure as close to 120/80 as possible, and maintain a healthy diet, including several vegetables and fruits, to help one's body prevent Lupus and its effect on your kidneys.
A study named LUMINA, conducted in 1993, strived to find why there is a disparity between Lupus in White people and Lupus in people of color. This study focused on nature vs. nurture. It was a multiethnic United States early cohort, meaning researchers studied various ethnicities involving African-Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics, all from the United States. The latter was diagnosed with Lupus for five years or less. Some of the nurture factors found included communication barriers, lack of healthcare coverage, and lower-income levels. One of the most important findings was that "Lupus patients of Hispanic and African-American descent have more active diseases at the time of diagnosis, with more serious organ system involvement" (verywellhealth.com). Overall the study discovered that nature factors ultimately play a larger role in determining Lupus prevalence than socioeconomic nurture factors. Genetics may be the main reason why Lupus affects African Americans and Hispanic women more than other people of color. Ten years after the first study concluded, scientists decided to revisit the LUMINA study and found more conclusions. Scientists found Lupus presents itself grievously in African American and Hispanic women patients, lacking health insurance, experienced acute Lupus onset, and conveyed specific genetics. Researches have found that genes play a more prominent role in the way Lupus affects minority women. Epigenetics (changes in chromosomes that affect gene activity), viruses, and of course environmental factors, and infections play a role" (lupusreasearch.org). One of the most revealing discoveries was "determining mortality was where a person stood financially with respect to poverty. Those with Lupus who were poorer financially were more apt to die of Lupus or complications stemming from the disease, in part because of limited access to healthcare" (verparticularalth.com). Withal, with the help of research from Emory University, a study conducted at The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013, concluded that there is a relationship between African American women and a high likelihood of facing harsher complications like kidney failure, skin rashes, heart attacks, and kidney transplant. African American women tend to suffer more from the symptoms of Lupus compared to other races and genders.
Signs and Symptoms among the African American and Latina population:
- Sun sensitivity
- Kidney complications
- Unexplained fever
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Swollen joints
Lupus Impacting Caucasian Women:
Did you know the average age for Caucasian women to be diagnosed with Lupus is in their 50s? Compared to African American women in their 30s. Most studies have indeed found that nearly 90 percent of Lupus patients are women and that, surprisingly, Caucasian women are at a lower risk than most ethnicities due to the lighter tone of their skin. Although they are at a much lower risk than other women of different races, one of the vital factors for caucasian women is their sun exposure and skin rashes.
Signs and Symptoms among the Caucasian population:
- Skin rashes/sun sensitivity
Lupus Impacting Alaska Native and American Indian Populations:
One of the most significant studies conducted by the Lupus Foundation of America explains the high-risk American Indian and Alaska Native populations are at for Lupus. The purpose behind the Indian Health Service (IHS) studying these specific populations was to determine how many live with Lupus and how many new cases of Lupus have developed within a particular period in the U.S. among these populations. The Lupus Foundation of America depicts, "the combined age-adjusted AI/AN prevalence rate was 178 cases per 100,000 persons, and the incidence rate among AI/NA POPULATIONS WAS 7.4 PER 100,000 person-years." (lupus.org). Researchers estimated that nearly 1.5 million Americans would have Lupus, no matter the exact form. This study identified that "the prevalence of lupus among AI/AN women is essentially the same as the prevalence in African American women, the group with the highest prevalence" (lupus.org). It is paramount to note that kidney involvement was seen in about 40 percent of all of the IHS registry, leading to a large number of women's kidneys not being able to operate accordingly. This study clarifies the importance for women of darker skin tones and healthy kidneys to be aware of how to take good care of their kidneys. Also, seeking professionals helps if any Lupus-related symptoms are present. Please visit the Lupus Foundation of America website for further information regarding these populations.
Signs and Symptoms among the Alaska Native and American Indian Populations:
- Heart problems
- Sun sensitivity
- Lung problems
- Blood cell and immunological abnormalities
Questions one may wonder specifically about Lupus and its impact on women:
- Does Lupus have the ability to affect one's menstrual process?
- Although it is uncommon that Lupus affects the process of a woman's ability to conceive, you do want to be cautious about specific flares you may have, potential corticosteroid medications, and your actual menstrual cycle.
- If you experience a Lupus flare or are taking corticosteroid medicines, you may have irregular menstrual cycles, making it harder to plan a pregnancy.
- What are potential side effects that can trigger Lupus symptoms from certain prescribed medications?
- Professionals refer to this as drug-induced Lupus. According to the CDC, "drug-induced Lupus is caused by certain medicines. The symptoms of drug-induced Lupus are like SLE, such as joint pain, muscle pain, and fever. But symptoms are usually not as serious. Also, drug-induced Lupus rarely affects major organs. Most often, the disease goes away when one stops taking medicine. The medicines that most commonly cause drug-induced Lupus are to treat other chronic health problems. These include seizures, high blood pressure, or rheumatoid arthritis. But not everyone who takes these medicines will get drug-induced Lupus."
- Because I am a woman, do I have a greater chance of developing other health problems?
- Unfortunately, most likely yes. If you have Lupus, your risk tends to be higher for other health problems common in women. Some of these health problems include heart disease and osteoporosis.
One of the many reasons I feel it is essential to help others be aware of the other areas Lupus can impact one's overall health. My mom's heart suffered and played a role in her health problems when she experienced a sudden seizure, just six months before her heart attack, which led to organ failure. I truly believe if it wasn't for Lupus, and her body's weakness due to Lupus, my mom's body would have been strong enough to overcome her heart attack.
At Inspira, we are striving every day to help educate others about Lupus and bring awareness to help find a cure for this life-altering auto-immune disease. Additionally, it is crucial to know when to recognize your symptoms, prevent Lupus flares, and cope with each ounce Lupus throws one's way.
Data proves that nearly 85% of patients who seek medical attention after experiencing Lupus signs, take the prescribed medicine from their doctors, and seek counseling, have the potential to live an average life expectancy. Our purpose behind sharing this information with you is to inform you and not scare you. We encourage you that if you or a loved one are diagnosed with Lupus, you can still live a long, happy, and fulfilling life. And remember, Lupus does not define you.
Thank you for taking the time to read and gain knowledge about Lupus and its effect on women.
We hope you all have a wonderful, safe, healthy, and celebrated month as you continue to practice your lifestyle to the best of your ability and take the necessary precautions to help make your body the healthiest it can be. As always, remember, continue empowering and being an inspiration!
This Web site may contain general information relating to various medical conditions and potential treatment. Please note that no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for the advice provided by a doctor or other qualified health care professionals. Customers or patients should always consult with a doctor or other health care professionals for medical advice or information about diagnosis and treatment.
If you have Lupus or have genes that are positive for Lupus, please consult your doctor or a health care professional as some of the foods listed may or may not be beneficial to your health.
Maria Lourdes Villalba, M.D., Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, Medical Officer, “Lupus and Women.” 2017. https://www.womenshealth.gov/lupus/lupus-and-women#:~:text=Women%20with%20lupus%20may%20be,women%20of%20the%20same%20age
Lawrence, R.C., Felson, D.T., Helmick, C.G., Arnold, L.M., Choi, H., Deyo, R.A., et al, for the National Arthritis Data Workgroup. (2008). Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States: Part II. Arthritis Rheum; 58(1):26–35.
Helmick, C.G., Felson, D.T., Lawrence, R.C., Gabriel, S., Hirsch, R., Kwoh, C.K., et al, for the National Arthritis Data Workgroup. (2008). Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States: Part I. Arthritis Rheum; 58(1):15–25.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus).
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Healthwise Staff, Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Rheumatology. “Complications of Lupus.” December 9, 2019.
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John Hopkins Rheumatology. “Lupus - Signs and Symptoms.” April 18, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJQGaXBuyuc
Dr. Frita. “What Is Lupus? Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment.” July 12, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXh-Ph9mmAA
Lupus Foundation of America. “The Impact of Lupus on the Kidneys in the Hispanic/Latino Population.” September 20, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH5UYdc5UfYLupus
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