On behalf of the entire lupus community, the Lupus Research Institute and S.L.E. Lupus Foundation thank television star Kristen Johnston for her courage in sharing her experience via Facebook of being diagnosed with lupus. Having won two Emmy awards for her role on "3rd Rock From the Sun" Kristen Johnston currently stars on the sitcom The Exes. USA Today reports the story, mentioning the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation as their source of information about the disease.
Kristen's celebrity helps bring awareness to a disease that is too often misdiagnosed and overlooked. In fact, she said that it took four months, 17 doctors and "two fun-filled weeks in November partying at the Mayo Clinic" before she was finally diagnosed this week. The Lupus Research Institute funds the most novel research that is making great strides in better diagnosing and treating lupus while searching for a cure.
Kristen's diagnosis of myelitis is a dangerous complication of lupus that refers to the attack on the spinal cord. She describes having "full body muscle weakness" so bad that she needed a neck brace to hold her head up and had trouble just walking.
If you have these symptoms or more common signs of lupus such as fatigue, stiff and painful joints, unexplained fevers or a rash across your face, please consult your doctor. Early diagnosis can help get the disease under control.
Leading lupus expert Daniel Wallace, MD describes lupus myelitis in his authoritative text, The Lupus Book. "This rare but serious complication of lupus can include paralysis or weakness that ranges from difficulty in moving one limb to quadriplegia. In lupus myelitis, the sac encasing the spinal cord is inflamed or blood clots are formed in the spinal arteries. Half of all lupus myelitis stems from antiphospholipid antibodies and half is from active vasculitis. The physician will probably first administer steroids to treat any possible inflammation. Anticoagulant drugs, such as heparin, are frequently added."
Antiphospholipid antibodies are a group of antibodies directed against proteins in the blood, causing excessive blood clotting. Vasculitis occurs when the immune system attacks the blood vessels, causing inflammation in the blood vessels. Any blood vessel - veins, arteries and capillaries can be affected.