ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More than a million Americans are living with an incurable disease and may not even know it.
May is National Lupus Awareness Month and some Southwest Georgia doctors want people to know how this disease can affect them.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, that can last from six weeks up to many years
One Phoebe physician, Tope Olarewaju, said it's an illness where the immune system actually attacks itself.
A normal immune system works to kill bacteria, viruses, and other invaders to the body, but with lupus, the immune system reaches a point where it doesn't recognize what is good and what is bad.
As for demographics, lupus typically affects women of color between 15 and 44 years old, but it can affect men too.
Olarewaju said Black, Hispanic, and Asian women are more likely than Caucasian women to develop lupus.
The most common symptom people have is feeling tired for no reason.
Two other symptoms include joint and kidney pain.
And one sign that could indicate lupus, is something called a malar rash, which is a butterfly-like rash that appears on the skin.
"So if somebody may be feeling very, very tired and also feeling this joint pain and thinking oh it's nothing, oh I'm probably overusing my joints and they develop this malar rash," explained Olarewaju, "Then that's more of an obvious sign that there's something obvious going on and they should get that investigated."
Now not all rashes and fatigue mean you have Lupus.
"For some patients, they may have just fatigue, some patients may have severe muscle pain," said Olarewaju, "And in that case, you would give an anti-inflammatory condition. But in most cases, the primary care physician would refer the patient to a rheumatologist, who would prescribe more specialized medications for them."
This physician wants to remind people it's best to talk with your physician rather than going online to self-diagnose.
Lupus can range from mild to severe cases and it is a lifelong condition that is treatable, but not curable.
Again, it is best to consult a doctor before self-diagnosing.