Last summer, Karen Holland knew something was off when she started having joint pain.
It was unusual for her, she said, and “it just got unbearable.”
The Archer Lodge resident Googled her symptoms, which returned information that said she might have rheumatoid arthritis. However, after a visit to her doctor last October, her diagnosis was different – lupus.
Medical experts say lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, occurs when a person’s immune system attacks the body’s tissues and organs. Holland said the disease targets anatomical “glue.”
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“Your body hasn’t given it a reason to, it just does,” Holland said.
Lupus-related flareups can cause damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells and the brain, heart and lungs. While Holland’s case is mild, she takes anti-malarial medication every day to calm her immune system. Some more-severe cases require corticosteroids and chemotherapy.
After her diagnosis, Holland said, she started researching the disease through the North Carolina chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. That’s where she learned about her condition and got involved in various awareness events, including a Walk to End Lupus on April 27.
Holland went a step further last month, asking the Archer Lodge Town Council to approve a proclamation declaring May as Lupus Awareness Month. Holland, along with her husband Andy and daughters Emma and Mattie, even posed for a photo with Mayor Michael Gordon after he read the proclamation.
While there is international debate over what causes lupus, some scientists point to factors like hormones, genetics and the environment. Holland said she does not have a genetic predisposition.
Stress, ultraviolet light and certain types of medication can cause flare-ups. For Holland, it’s overexertion.
“If I stand for too long, I can send myself into a flare,” she said. “I’m still able to be active, but I have to know my limitations.”
For more information, go to www.lupus.org.