DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — May is Lupus Awareness Month.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, often referred to as an invisible disease.
“Classically, patients have autoantibodies. Many people have arthritis or rashes, but the spectrum of severity can include lupus in the kidney, heart or lung inflammation,” said Dr. Jennifer Rogers, Director of the Duke Lupus Clinic.
There is no cure for lupus but there are treatments to help manage it.
“Pretty much everyone gets hydroxychloroquine, that’s our baseline medication and depending on what we find, we’re also of course checking the kidneys and the blood counts and the antibodies, we may use stronger immune suppressing medications,” Rogers said.
Each May, the annual campaign raises awareness of the invisible physical, emotional, and financial impacts of lupus.
Myrah Lykes, 45, of Charlotte, was diagnosed with lupus at 16-years-old. She says it started with a butterfly rash on her face.
“It’s very important that people not just know the name lupus but are very educated on it,” Lykes said.
“We can look so good, but people really don’t know the everyday struggle that the people that have to deal with this debilitating disease, have to deal with from time to time,” she said.
For Lykes, the everyday struggle can consist of pain and fatigue.
“You can be okay right now and in two hours you are just exhausted,” Lykes said. “When I’m in pain. I deal a lot with my legs, my legs hurt a lot.”
About 1.5 million people in the United States are living with lupus.
Women make up more than 90% of those cases and the disease is more common in Black and Latina women.
Kidney disease is a common outcome of lupus.
Lykes says her journey has been difficult.
“I do have moments that I am emotional, but I only give myself three minutes to be emotional,” she said.
After that, she keeps going, relying on faith and support from family.
Lykes has also made it her mission to encourage others navigating lupus.
“I think I am here to help not only those around me but those around the world, that’s why I’m celebrating the journey because I’m able to still live, breathe, in my right mind,” Lykes said. “So, I’m here to help as many people as I can, as long as I can.”
World Lupus Day is on Wednesday, May 10.
Everyone is invited to participate by wearing your favorite purple gear to make lupus visible.