HEALTH MATTERS SERIES: Lupus

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Best Doctors is a company that provides individuals with access to the best medical minds around the globe. To contribute to this mission, we’ve started a Health Matters series which will dive into relevant health topics on a monthly basis. By curating information from trusted sources, we hope to provide individuals with the confidence they need to tackle any health issue they face.

Our focus this month is lupus. Lupus is a chronic and incurable autoimmune disease that occurs when our tissues attack our own immune systems. Lupus can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. The condition is extremely complicated and unpredictable, making it one of the most easily misdiagnosed medical conditions.

The symptoms of lupus resemble those of other more common conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, hepatitis C, influenza, and many others. Some of the most common lupus symptoms are:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • Fever and muscle pain
  • Hair loss and skin rashes

Another hallmark of lupus is that the symptoms tend to be sporadic, meaning that they sometimes can “flare up” and other times are in remission, further confusing the prospect for a proper and accurate diagnosis. There is no single test to diagnose lupus and it sometimes takes months or even years for a diagnosis of lupus.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, from the time they first notice their lupus symptoms, it takes nearly six years for individuals with lupus to be diagnosed. 63 percent of people with lupus report being incorrectly diagnosed. Of those in the group reporting misdiagnosis, more than half reported seeing four or more different providers before their accurate diagnosis!

In addition to its complex and confusing symptoms, lupus can have big effects on your wallet. An October 2008 study found that the average annual direct health care cost of individuals with lupus was $12,643. The same study states the mean annual productivity costs (lost hours of productive work) for participants of employment age was $8,659.

The similarities of lupus symptoms to those of other diseases and the lack of testing protocols makes this inflammatory disease one of the most obvious candidates for the Best Doctors service. It’s important to take note of the symptoms you are experiencing. Having these in mind as you visit your physician will help you find the correct diagnosis. It goes without saying that second opinions are never a bad idea for health issues that are known to be so difficult to diagnose.

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