Women's Health

What Women of Color Must Know About Lupus

Income might also play a role

Studies in Canada suggest that income might be the differentiating factor between each race. Poverty tends to affect Americans along racial lines. Those who do not have access to healthcare often have a much more severe form of lupus than their wealthier counterparts. Perhaps these groups experience higher incidences of lupus because they have more stress, difficulty getting medication, or taking proper care of their health.

In addition to income, research suggests that black women may have a genetic susceptibility to lupus. "Two particular genes seem to be associated with lupus in minority women," states LUMINA (Lupus in Minorities) studies.

In a Lupus Awareness survey in 2012, 74% of Hispanics and 57% of African Americans said they had never heard of lupus even when they suffered from a range of lupus symptoms. While it is true that lupus is somewhat rare when compared to other illnesses that impact people of color, this also means that many are less informed.

“Given the overall rarity of the disease, ER, and primary care doctors may be less familiar with the nuances and breadth of organ involvement that can occur in lupus when a patient presents with a wide variety of symptoms,” Dr. Izmirly says. “But a delayed diagnosis can increase the potential for injury caused by the disease as appropriate therapy may not be offered. The management of lupus often involves coordination of multiple doctors and immune-suppressing treatments to alleviate various symptoms."

A diagnosis of lupus is difficult to accept. Patients often seek second opinions from other doctors who may not be familiar with the disease, and this could definitely cause problems. Delaying treatment can definitely complicate finding relief and treatment for this health issue.

Socioeconomic factors, language, and healthcare access are just a few factors that affect the outcomes for women of color with lupus. Depending on their backgrounds, some minority patients distrust medical professionals if they are a different color. Studies also suggest that the reasons behind these problems are multifactorial and include cultural elements as well as the abusive historical practices of using black people in medical experiments. There are also racial biases that are still in existence in healthcare settings.

Medicaid data that was used in a study in 2015 looked at lupus deaths across the U.S. This study illustrated that Native Americans on Medicaid are at high risk of death from complications due to lupus. Black and white populations are also at this risk of death from lupus complications, but at a much lower rate.