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How Lupus and Fibromyalgia Affect Black Women

a black woman in pain

This article is part of an ongoing series called “For Our Sisters,” where we examine critical health and wellness issues that impact Women, especially Black Women.

Lupus is a disease that impacts Black women more than any other race or ethnic group.

What’s more, lupus happens to be a significant risk factor for another disease also marked by chronic pain and fatigue – fibromyalgia.

Because of this, Black women are especially prone to developing both conditions, which could mean coping with chronic pain and tiredness.

Since May marks Lupus Awareness Month and May 12 is regarded as National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, Black Men’s Health has unearthed these facts about both conditions that Black women and the people who love them should know about.

A significant number of Black women may develop lupus in their lifetimes.

The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) reports that 1 in 250 African-American women will develop lupus. The condition is two to three times more prevalent in African-American, Latina, Native-American, Alaskan, Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women than White women.

Lupus and fibromyalgia share some symptoms but are ultimately different.

Both share symptoms like headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and depression. But the similarities end there.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells and tissues. This action can inflict damage to the brain, skin, heart, kidneys, and lungs. There are four different forms of lupus. Plus, people with this condition develop “flares,” meaning their symptoms worsen.

A full list of lupus symptoms can be found here.  

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder marked by the feeling of pain all over. People with this condition also become more sensitive to pain than those without it. This is what’s known as abnormal pain perception processing.

For a full list of fibromyalgia symptoms, click here.

Both conditions have no cure and their causes are unknown, but they are risk factors.

Though lupus can affect people of all ages and sexes, African-American, Latin, and Asian American women between the ages of 15 and 45 are the most diagnosed.

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, but it is also most diagnosed in women. Evidence also suggests that this chronic disorder can run in families. Plus, having lupus, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis means you are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Both are considered rare conditions, but many lupus patients have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia impacts about 10 million in the U.S. and 3-6% of the world’s population, reports the National Fibromyalgia Association. Lupus only impacts 1.5 million people, according to the LFA.

Despite the relatively low occurrence of both in the American population, a whopping 25% of people who have lupus also have fibromyalgia, reports Dr. Sarah B. Lieber, a New York-based rheumatologist affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery.

If you have either condition or both you can still lead a normal life with treatment.

Through a combination of medications, exercise, and diet, patients with lupus can still thrive. For more information, you can consult this comprehensive list of treatment options published by the Mayo Clinic.

Treatment recommendations for people with fibromyalgia also include a combination of medications, diet, and exercise. Additionally, counseling, physical and occupational therapy are recommended. For a full list of fibromyalgia treatment options, see this Mayo Clinic list.  

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