Woman describes battle with lupus, how she's winning - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Woman describes battle with lupus, how she's winning

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Lakeisha Booker-Sukkar before and after dialysis treatments. (Source: Lakeisha Booker-Sukkar/RNN ) Lakeisha Booker-Sukkar before and after dialysis treatments. (Source: Lakeisha Booker-Sukkar/RNN )

(RNN) - The mystery of lupus and why the human body would attack itself is a growing concern among lupus sufferers and their families.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body including skin, joints and organs inside the body.

An eight-year survivor, Lakeisha Booker-Sukkar says before being diagnosed with lupus she was very active and full of energy. Then things changed.

"I started feeling stiffness in joints and kept getting colds," she said. "I had frequent headaches and dizziness and experienced body changes."

Sukkar was experiencing common lupus symptoms, according to rheumatologist Howard Smith at the Cleveland Clinic and adjunct professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

The Lupus Foundation of America says many as 40 percent of all people with lupus, and as many as two-thirds of all children with lupus, develop kidney complications.

"My kidneys failed in 2010. I stayed in and out of the hospital for six months and had to have emergency dialysis," Sukkar said. "And I went to a dialysis clinic for seven months after that.

After months of going to a dialysis clinic, Sukkar says her kidneys started working again thanks to eating well and exercising.

"I did a lot of swimming during dialysis," she said. "I got tired of feeling sorry for myself, steroids caused me to gain 40 pounds, so I decided [to get] up and start moving."

In addition to regular exercise, Sukkar says she portions her food, eats lots of fruits and vegetables and drinks lots of water to maintain her health. And she visits her doctors regularly.

Smith says these things are very important for lupus patients, as well as a couple of other precautions.

"They should avoid sun exposure and get adequate amounts of rest," Smith said.

According to lupus.org, at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and it strikes mostly women of childbearing age, 15 to 44.

Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasian women, however, men and teenagers also have developed lupus. All races and sexes can develop it.

Smith says the reason is not known why women, especially women of color, are diagnosed at such a rate but there are things that could be contributing.

"We know that estrogens and genetics are involved. Some men who have problems with estrogens are involved," Smith said. "Mainly in women of childbearing age. Certain medicines can cause lupus and sun exposure and things that set off the immune system are causes."

Although there is no cure for lupus, Smith says it's treatable.

"Most patients live normal lives, and the progress made has been great," Smith said. "In the 1950s if a woman would be diagnosed only had a 40 percent chance, now that percentage is well in to the 90s."

In an article written by Smith, he says "I tell my patients that proper medication can even help people with severe lupus control their flare-ups and live productive lives."

As for Sukkar, she says life is back to normal.

"I have a strong support system," she said. "When I was first diagnosed, I was very depressed. A lot of things I kept bottled up, and it's good to be able to let it out."

To learn more, donate or participate in a clinical trial, visit lupus.org.

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