Ann Arbor City Council to declare May as Lupus Awareness Month on May 7

Lupus Awareness Purple Ribbon (Credit: Pixabay)
Lupus Awareness Purple Ribbon (Credit: Pixabay)

ANN ARBOR – Spearheaded by lupus patient and advocate Michele Mahler from her hospital bed at the University of Michigan Hospital, May will officially be declared as Lupus Awareness Month by the Ann Arbor City Council, with support from Mayor Christopher Taylor. The city council will make the proclamation at City Hall on May 7 at 7 p.m. 

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself through its own immune system by mistaking its own tissue as a foreign invader [and] can affect any organ, tissue, blood vessels or any other system the body uses," Mahler said by email.

"My intent for the proclamation is to raise awareness of lupus, which affects an estimated 2 million people in the U.S. and 5 million, globally. I am thankful to the City of Ann Arbor, Mayor Christopher Taylor and the City Council for partnering with the Michigan Lupus Foundation to raise awareness in Ann Arbor! I am grateful for the small role I played to help people like myself who suffer from this chronic illness to bring attention to and help foster research for a cure for this serious and sometimes deadly disease.”  

It should also be noted that the Michigan Lupus Foundation is proud of the leadership lupus patients like Mahler are assuming in the state of Michigan to persuade city councils and state legislatures to make this declaration. 

For those interested in learning more about lupus and how they can help, here are the facts you need to know:

What is Lupus?

Your body’s immune system helps fight disease and infection, germs and viruses. But when  someone has lupus, their immune system starts to attack their own body, rather than just  fighting germs. As a result, someone with lupus can get easily tired, have swelling and skin  rashes, or in more serious cases, have their brain or kidney affected.    

What are the symptoms?    

Extreme tiredness, sensitivity to the sun, swelling of joints, butterfly-shaped rashes on the  skin, and sudden fevers are just some symptoms of lupus. But because lupus symptoms can be  the same as those of many other diseases, it is important to be diagnosed by a doctor.    

How is Lupus diagnosed?    

In total, there are 11 criteria for diagnosing lupus, some, like blood tests, can be tested for  (clinical) and others, like the butterfly-shaped skin rashes, can be observed. A patient has to  be positive on 4 of these 11 for them to be diagnosed with lupus.     

Who gets Lupus?    

9 out of 10 lupus patients are women and girls, and people of color get lupus more often than  others. There are about 1.5-2 million lupus patients in the US, and 5 million worldwide. Lupus  is usually caught in people 15-45, but it can be diagnosed at any age.    

How does someone get Lupus?    

No one knows yet. What we do know is that lupus is not transmissible, meaning you cannot  get it from another person. Most scientists believe that lupus is caused by a mix of genetic  and environmental factors.             

Who treats lupus? 

A whole team of doctors can care for a patient with lupus, depending on the form of lupus  someone has. Most commonly, patients see a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a doctor who has special training in bone and muscle-related diseases. But patients may also see a nephrologist for their kidneys, a neurologist for their brains, and others.    

How is lupus treated?    

There is no cure for lupus. But most patients can manage their disease with medication, diet  adjustment and lifestyle changes. Some of the medications used to treat lupus are: benlysta, prednisone, and plaquenil. Lupus patients are also advised to eat a healthy diet with plenty of  fruits and vegetables, to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible and use sunscreen, and  when they can, and to be moderately active when possible. It is very important to understand  that each patient can have not just different responses to lupus, but also to different  treatments. That’s why it is very important for every patient to have their own plan of  treatment created with their doctors and others who care for them.      

Where can I find more information?    

If you know someone who has lupus, you can ask them! You can also ask a doctor. Here are  some places on the web you can find more information:   

Other lupus facts you might not be aware of:

  • Ninety percent of lupus patients are women, and women of color are affected disproportionally 
  • Despite the fact that lupus is a prototypical autoimmune illness that effects more people than AIDS, Sickle Cell Anemia, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis or Cystic Fibrosis, a lack of awareness is oen a key hurdle to both diagnosis and treatment of lupus, as well as to the feeling of loneliness among patients

For more information, please contact Ben Rathbun, Executive Director of the Michigan Lupus Foundation at 800-705-6677 or ben@milupus.org. 

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