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  • Nicole Habibe Burgos

“Un-break My Heart...Literally”: Lupus

Keeping in theme with diseases you didn’t know your favorite celebrities had, today we’re talking about Lup

us. You all know Toni Braxton right? As in, “Unbreak my heart” Toni Braxton. As in, “He wasn’t man enough” Toni Braxton. Yes, her. Something you probably didn’t know, however, was that during her 2008 Las Vegas residency she was dealing with a ton of health issues, which culminated in a heart attack and a diagnosis of Lupus.

What is Lupus? Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease where your body creates antibodies that attack your own organs, causing both acute flares and chronic inflammation in your body. It usually manifests during puberty or young adult years in women, and in Black women, it tends to manifest younger and more severely. Lupus is also three times more common in Black women than white women, and around 1 of every 250 black women has Lupus, so it's more common than you think. Since Lupus affects so many parts of your body, and there is not one singular test to diagnose it, many women with Lupus are missed; and though the African American community has a higher incidence of Lupus, mistrust of the medical system, less access, and systemic bias can cause more Black women with Lupus to be missed.

So let’s get educated so that if at any point you suspect you may have symptoms of Lupus, you can advocate for yourself and come see one of our amazing Culture Care doctors. Some symptoms of Lupus include fever, fatigue, joint pain and stiffness/swelling, a butterfly-shaped rash over your nose and cheeks that gets worse with sun exposure, and possibly chest pain, among many other manifestations. Lupus can come with an array of complications, affecting any organ in your body, such as your heart, kidneys, intestines, and skin. It can also affect plans to get pregnant and pregnancy itself.

If you are diagnosed with Lupus and you talk to your doctor, they might recommend becoming pregnant when you’ve gone at least 6 months without a Lupus flare. Medications you are taking for Lupus may also need to be reevaluated, to make sure no harm comes to the baby that’s developing inside you. Women with Lupus are more likely to suffer from preeclampsia in pregnancy, and babies may need more monitoring as they are at increased risk of suffering from heart block due to maternal Lupus.

All in all, Lupus is a complicated disease, but with early diagnosis and management with a doctor you trust, you can live a long healthy life. If you feel like you have any of the symptoms we discussed, mention them to your doctor. And if you have Lupus and you want to have a baby, have that conversation with your OB before you get pregnant and be an active participant in your health.

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