The Impact of Lupus on the Black Community: What You Need To Know

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting people of all races and ethnic groups, but it's more common and severe in Black people. Like many other health conditions, the disease is more common in Black women. Research shows that lupus affects 1 in 537 young Black women. Not only are Black people more likely to be diagnosed with lupus, but they are also more likely to have more active disease and lower levels of social support compared to white patients.

The symptoms of lupus are wide-ranging and can be different for each person. But some common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain (pleuritis)

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Hair loss (alopecia)

  • Inflammation

  • Joint pain or inflammation (arthritis)

  • Mouth sores

In addition to these symptoms, there is also an increased risk for kidney failure and death due to lupus-related complications like blood clots in lung arteries or strokes. The affects on one's quality of life can be crippling.

Lupus can decrease physical activity, which can be detrimental to those working in the

manual labor sectors. Many African-Americans unfortunately work manual labor jobs and if we are more exposed to lupus this can harm financial goals and perpetuate the cycle of black poverty. Of course, the disease doesn’t discriminate by class. It affects a wide range of people, regardless of socioeconomic status. The following Black celebrities were diagnosed with lupus and the disease may have impeded their ability to perform, harming their careers at times as well:

  • Nick Cannon

  • Michael Jackson

  • Toni Braxton

  • Trick Daddy

Tragically, rapper J Dilla and actress Ashley Taylor Gerren from Baldwin Hills died of complications from lupus. More recently, Selena Gomez, a woman of color, had to receive a kidney transplant due to Lupus complications. As you can see, lupus not only negatively impacts the lifestyles of people diagnosed with the disease, it is also killing them.

On Dec. 27, 2020 President Joe Biden signed into law a funding package providing $21.5 million in new funding for lupus-specific research and education programs in fiscal year 2021. This funding is needed because more research is crucial to finding a cure and saving Black lives.

How has lupus affected you, a friend, or a family member?

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