February 5, 2016
By Adam Selkowitz
90% of people with lupus are women, but what about the other 10%? You don’t often hear a lot about men with lupus. Lupus is often thought of as a “woman’s disease”. As a man with lupus and one who was diagnosed as a teenager, I’ve had to live with the fact that I have a disease that affects mostly women. That can be a very lonely place. It’s hard to find other men who share your diagnosis; it’s hard to explain to outsiders that men do get lupus. In fact, men who have lupus often have more severe disease and more trouble getting diagnosed in the first place because physicians don’t always look for lupus in men.
Men with lupus suffer many of the same symptoms as women with the disease. Fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and sun sensitivity are all prevalent in men with lupus and kidney, lung, heart, or brain involvement are all just as possible in men with lupus as they are in women. Pleurisy, renal disease, and discoid (skin lupus), to name a few, are more common in men than in women.
So what do you do when you’re a man and you are diagnosed with a disease that primarily affects women? In my opinion, you own your illness. Your lupus belongs to you and will become a part of who you are and how you live the rest of your life. Try and embrace the disease so that you can better command how it affects you. Lupus doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing the things that you love. Exercise may have to be modified, but shouldn’t be scrapped. Finding ways to maintain a positive attitude and a healthy body and mind can all be extremely important in keeping the disease in check.
Women with lupus can also be a good source of support. Despite the gender difference, these women do know what you’re going through and can often help to make the diagnosis less lonely. Support groups are a great way to find common ground with others who have lupus and can help answer many of the questions you may have. And when you do find another man with lupus be sure to keep in touch–it’s a small group, but it can be a mighty group, and the more men who talk about lupus, the better off we all will be.
Lupus isn’t a women’s disease; it’s a disease the affects mostly women, but the men I’ve known with lupus are brave, strong, and determined to win the fight against this illness, and I’m proud to stand next to them.