A Rheumatologist Debunks Myths About Lupus Diagnosis

Sometimes we all feel a bit tired or have some aches and pains. But recurring episodes of certain symptoms might be signs of a health issue that's gone undetected. Maybe you've suddenly felt fatigued for a period of time, and then it went away. You could have had a sudden fever, dry eyes, chest pain, or headaches. Perhaps you have noticed that, over a period of time, you experience increasingly worsening joint pain that's accompanied by stiffness and swelling. Your skin could even get lesions, with butterfly-shaped rashes that cover your cheeks and the bridge of the nose. Maybe your fingers and toes change colors to blue or white when you are cold or stressed.

These are some of the common symptoms of lupus, an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation (per Mayo Clinic). Notably, lupus symptoms can flare up — coming on very quickly or progressing slowly — and be mild or severe. Symptoms can even be permanent. 

In an exclusive interview, Health Digest spoke with Dr. Anca Askanase, rheumatologist and Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center to learn more about popular lupus myths. Keep reading to learn how to distinguish fact from fiction.

Mythbusting 4 popular ideas about lupus

According to Dr. Anca Askanase, the top 4 myths about lupus are easily debunked. The first is that lupus is easy to diagnose. "It is hard [to diagnose]," says Dr. Askanase. "It takes several years for most patients to be diagnosed with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus)." The second myth is that lupus is a type of cancer. "While the treatments of lupus are sometimes borrowed from oncology, lupus is not cancer," says Dr. Askanase. "It is a chronic disease like diabetes, and most patients live with lupus and have normal lives."

The third myth is that if you take good care of yourself, you don't need to take any medication for lupus. "Until now the care of lupus includes a complex regimen of drugs that allows for control of the disease in a majority of patients," says Dr. Askanase. The fourth and final myth is that there is a cure for lupus. "There is hope that new medications might allow for a medication-free long-term remission," says Dr. Askanase. "However, these medications are not currently available."

If you or a loved one are looking for ways to cope after being diagnosed with lupus, it is important to find support. "It takes a village," says Dr. Askanase. "[Work] with your rheumatologist and sometimes other doctors, with a mental health professional for support and advice, and having a supportive family and friends."