While sun protection is important for everyone, many individuals who have medical conditions are threatened with worsening symptoms when exposed to the sun. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1.5 million Americans. It also causes extreme sun sensitivity.
While most of those affected only have a mild form of lupus, others may develop serious and even life threatening problems. Joints, blood cells and organs can all be affected by this disease. Our friends at The Lupus Foundation of Minnesota (LFM) estimate that more than 90% of people living with lupus are women, and that symptoms and diagnoses occur most often when women are in their child bearing years between the ages 15 to 45.
There are three common types of lupus: discoid (cutaneous) lupus, which is always limited to the skin; systemic lupus, which can affect every organ in the body; and drug-induced lupus which occurs after the use of certain drugs. Lupus also occurs frequently in individual diagnosed with mixed connective tissue.
According to the LFM, for the vast majority of people with lupus, effective treatment can minimize lupus symptoms, reduce inflammation, and maintain normal body functions. Photosensitivity is a major feature of both systemic lupus and cutaneous lupus. Exposure to the sun can cause skin lesions, including a malar rash — flattened areas of red skin on the face. When the rash appears on both cheeks and across the bridge of the nose in the shape of a butterfly, it is known as the “butterfly rash.” UV exposure can also trigger flares of internal disease (including joint pains and fatigue). Medications are often prescribed for people with lupus, depending on which organs are involved, and the severity of involvement. Many lupus medications (including tetracycline antibiotics) significantly increase sun sensitivity.
Because the characteristics and course of lupus may vary significantly among individuals, it is important to emphasize that a thorough medical evaluation and ongoing medical supervision are essential to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
The Lupus Foundation of Minnesota is an independent organization that focuses on funding lupus research and serving those in Minnesota and neighboring states. As a non-profit charitable organization, LFM provides education, support and service to those affected by lupus, promotes awareness and understanding of lupus to others, and supports research that seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of lupus as well as to discover its cause and cure. Learn more about events during Lupus Awareness Month this May by visiting the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota’s website.
At Coolibar, we create clothing that offers the best sun protection possible for individuals living with lupus. We hope that by raising awareness of this disease and other diseases directly affected by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, we can create greater support for affected individuals and organizations like the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota.
Don’t live in Minnesota, but want more information or assistance? The Lupus Foundation of America also provides support for individuals living with lupus.