Understanding Lupus

Achy joints, skin rashes, a fever and fatigue...all of these are symptoms that could be simply a virus or they may suggest something more serious: an auto-immune disease called lupus.

While lupus generally targets women, men are also vulnerable to the disease. There are no definitive tests for lupus and its symptoms mimic many other illnesses. Also, it has no cure and it is not easy to diagnose.

In twenty-one-year-old Curt Nugent's freshman year of college the disease nearly derailed his plans of becoming a teacher: "I Started getting joint pain in my elbows and hands, knees, bottom of my feet, and I really thought nothing of it because I was active playing basketball a lot."

Curt ignored his worsening symptoms for four months, until he was hospitalized and diagnosed with lupus.

Dr. Susan Manzi, Rheumatologist, says: "For reasons we don't fully understand in auto-immune diseases, the immune system begins to target itself and in lupus that attack can be on any or all of the internal organs."

Curt is not a usual lupus patient.

Dr. Susan Manzi, Rheumatologist, says: "It is a disease that primarily targets women. So for every ten women, one man will develop lupus."

Another challenge concerning the disease is finding effective treatment.

Dr. Susan Manzi, Rheumatologist, says:  "There have been no new drugs approved for lupus in 40 years and we borrow all of our medications from other subspecialists."

Concerning Curt's treatment, a chemotherapy drug was used by special surgeons to suppress the immune system which eventually got his lupus under control.

Now Curt tells people about the disorder every chance he gets: " [I want to] make them aware of it and explain the symptoms of it so in case they have it, they wouldn't take it lightly like I did."

He's living proof that lupus can affect anyone. The doctor says despite the disease's many mysteries, this is a hopeful time for people with lupus. She says there's a lot of lupus research going on and many new potential therapies in the near future.