Living with lupusLike many people with lupus, I'd been feeling ill for years before I was actually diagnosed. That's one of the problems with lupus; the symptoms are often vague and mimic other illnesses, which frequently confuses doctors. I first became ill when I was about 38. I had extremely severe flu-like symptoms and was rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis.
After this episode I continued to have further symptoms such as night sweats, painful joints and extreme fatigue. I also felt depressed, which is unlike me as I'm normally a really upbeat person.
For about four years, doctors couldn't tell me what was wrong and just prescribed rest. They suggested that I was stressed, or that it was my hormones. I was actually asked if I'd like some counselling as I looked really well, so the GP seemed to think I'd become a hypochondriac. Finally, I was referred to an arthritis clinic, where one simple blood test revealed I had lupus. It was such a relief to know I wasn't imagining it all!
A lot of people with lupus take anti-malarial tablets, which dampen down an overactive immune system. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to them and I didn't want to take steroids because of the possible side-effects. As my lupus is considered mild, I have chosen to control my condition using diet, exercise and positive thinking. I avoid processed foods and do a lot of gentle exercise, like walking. I also know I have to try to keep my stress levels to a minimum to avoid 'flares'.
At the extreme end of the scale, lupus can cause life-threatening organ failure. But in the majority of cases, as long as people are diagnosed early on, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to live a full and happy life, even with lupus. I'm proof of that!
Angie Davidson, 52, is from East London
For more information and to find out more about how diet can help your condition, visit www.lupus.org.uk