Can men have lupus? It’s a question I get every day. When I go to answer, I first want to rant. But, then I calm down and realize that this question is due to a lack of understanding of the disease. So, I wrote this post to answer the question in hopes of educating others about the disease. Also, maybe I won’t get asked this as much anymore (here’s hoping).
Can Men Have Lupus? The Answer is Yes
That’s the simple answer. But, to be fair, more information is needed than that. While lupus affects people of all ages, races, and sex, it is rare for a man to have lupus. Rare- yet a reality.
Let’s take a look at the statistics for a moment. Around 1.5 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with lupus. Of those, a little over 1 million have been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythamatosus. And, 90% of those are women.
That means that only around 150,000 men (depending on whose numbers you use) have been diagnosed with lupus in the U.S. Among these men, most were diagnosed at a later age, which may be due in part to a delayed diagnosis according to one study. Incidentally, included in this number is celebrity Nick Cannon (Source).
And, yes, I’m included in that number. I was diagnosed at an early age- early teens. Yes, that’s an early age, but it’s the truth. My lupus was active for a few years, and then I went into a long remission. I mean a really long remission- 18 years!
Then, in my late 30s I had hernia surgical mesh implanted, and next thing you know, I relapsed. It’s been over 5 years now, and my lupus is worse than it’s ever been. So long story short, men can have lupus. I have lupus (and I’ve only recently started admitting it).
The Difference Between Men and Women With Lupus
I’m going to start off by contradicting myself a little. There is no major difference between men and women when it comes to lupus. The disease acts the same way in men as it does women. And, it’s treated the same way. Okay, now that I’ve said that, let me say that there are few smaller differences.
First of all, some common symptoms are more pronounced in men than in women according to scientific research (I’m not a doctor. I’m a man diagnosed with lupus that has done some homework). For example, some studies suggest that kidney disease is more common in men. The same is true with skin involvement, pleurisy, heart attacks and strokes, lupus anticoagulant, and seizures.
If you want to know more about common lupus symptoms, please see my post– 6 Warning Signs for Lupus: Less Common Ones. In this post, I detail 6 lupus symptoms that aren’t discussed as much.
As for me, I know this to be true. When I was first diagnosed, it was due to my having a seizure in class. When my mother took me to a specialist, the specialist hospitalized me for further tests. Once at the hospital, the doctors started focusing on other symptoms. By the time, I left the hospital, I was introduced to lupus.
Fast forward to my relapse. Once again, I was in a classroom, but this time I was the teacher. I suffered a stroke in the middle of teaching a lesson one day. And like that, my lupus was back. Since then, my symptoms have increased in both number and severity.
As I have come to find out, the severity of my lupus symptoms is common among men. Before I say anything else, let me say that I’m not downplaying the effects of lupus on women. I’m just sharing what I have come to learn about lupus and men as I have traveled my own journey with lupus.
Within the research, one study being conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, lupus appears to be more aggressive in men. For one thing, lupus in men exhibits a higher disease activity. The study concluded that men with lupus reported not only more hospital stays, but also longer hospital stays.
Even more, a study coming out of a university in Columbia reported lupus in men creating increased organ damage. This is especially true of the kidneys. Combine this with the increase in heart attacks and strokes among men with lupus, it’s no wonder that the survival rate for men with lupus is lower.
So as you can see, it’s a common misconception that lupus only affects women. Unfortunately, this misconception has created a certain perception of men with lupus. I know that this negative perception exists with everyone diagnosed with lupus. Yet, I can only speak from my experience.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned how many times I have been asked, “Can men have lupus?” It’s too many times to count, but it doesn’t even compare to the number of times I have heard another question that troubles me even more.
And that is, “Lupus- isn’t that a woman’s disease?” When I hear that, or any other disparaging comment about me having lupus, I feel like people don’t believe me when I say I have lupus. Honestly, I’m sometimes thankful for the skin issues on my face (when I have them) because then I have something to point to and say, “See, it’s real!”
Even worse, is the sense of failure I sometimes feel. At times, I feel as if I let people down. I let my boss down because I have to miss another day of work because I’m sick. I feel like I let my kids down because I don’t feel up to doing something with them. Don’t get me started on my friends that I can’t go hunting with because it hurts too bad to be out in the cold or damp.
Maybe this perception has more to do with antiquated notions of what it means to be a man. I don’t know. I just know that there is a lack of male voice when it comes to lupus. Even researchers discuss a lack of male representation in study participants. Other men with lupus, like Andres Kemp, have discussed a lack of male representation in the lupus support community (Source).
Ultimately, all of these perceptions and notions lead to a view that a man with lupus is, well, less of a man. As a result, it only makes the battle with lupus more intense.
So, The Answer Is Not So Simple
Can a man have lupus? Yes.
But maybe that’s not even the question that should be asked. Maybe you, should be asking, “How does lupus affect you as a man?” Or, even better, “How are you doing as a man with lupus?”
For me, the best question to ask a man with lupus is, “What can I do to help?” The answer to that question is actually simple. You can promote lupus awareness. You can provide support and understanding to someone with lupus, whether they or a man or a woman.
I hope you liked my post. If so, please share it on social media.
If you have any comments or questions, please share them with me. I will definitely respond. I want to start a discussion on the issue. Again, thanks for reading.