Women's Health

What Women of Color Must Know About Lupus

What Women of Color Must Know About Lupus

Lupus is a misunderstood autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue, pain, joint swelling, and sometimes rashes. It develops when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, and it can affect the patient's joints, skin, blood cells, heart, kidneys, and lungs.

Because prominent celebrities like Selena Gomez and Toni Braxton have come out and described their struggles with lupus, the world is becoming more aware of the disease. Many more women are able to get the care they need because of the realization that even celebrities suffer from this autoimmune disease.

Lupus strikes women more than men, and according to the Lupus Research Alliance, almost 90% of those with lupus are young women. However, studies also show that Black and Hispanic women are diagnosed with lupus at a much higher rate than white women in the United States. The cause of lupus is unknown and still being researched, but the medical community has discovered that lupus may affect women of color at least two to three times more than white women.

Why do women of color are more at risk for lupus? This is a question that researchers are still trying to understand.

Audrey Ayala’s story

Audrey Ayala is Hispanic and was diagnosed with lupus in July 2015. One day, Ayala came home from the gym and suddenly lost her vision, couldn't speak, and felt numbness along the left side of her body. After a visit to the emergency room, Ayala was no closer to finding a diagnosis. Doctors, at first, thought she was having a stroke, but tests and MRI discovered that she had more than a dozen brain lesions. The neurologist believed that she either had one of two of these illnesses: multiple sclerosis or lupus.  

Three months later and after many tests, Ayala’s official diagnosis was systemic lupus erythematosus. And now, Ayala was at risk for cardiovascular issues, stroke, and mini-strokes if she didn't manage it properly.

Ayala's story isn't the only one. She has faced a reality that is similar to what other woman of color face in the United States. Read on to learn more.