In an effort to raise awareness for lupus, the city of San Jose proclaimed May to be Lupus Awareness Month.

Standing beside three people who suffer from lupus, Mayor Sam Liccardo made the declaration at a city council meeting Tuesday afternoon, just two days before World Lupus Day.

According to Healthwire, an online health website, lupus is when the immune system attacks and causes damage to healthy cells, tissue and organs. 

It occurs when the immune system can’t tell the difference between harmful viruses, bacteria, germs and healthy body tissues. 

The Lupus Foundation of America implements programs of research, education and advocacy in order to help fund research. The foundation is a nonprofit organization with outreach programs available for patients. 

Spandan Chakrabarti, communication manager interim operations for the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, said many of his close friends try to hide the pain from the condition. 

“I’ve seen close friends of mine who look fine on the outside, but moments later have to go to the emergency room when lupus flares up,” Chakrabarti said.

Lupus affects 1.5 million people in the United States and around 90 percent are women, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.

NBC Bay Area meteorologist Rob Mayeda found out his wife had lupus on their second date. 

Mayeda didn’t know much about her condition until he looked it up online and understood the severity of the disease. 

“For whatever reason it gets overlooked as an autoimmune disease. But we find that a lot of the medicine that benefit lupus help with rheumatoid arthritis,” Mayeda said. 

“One day, when we find out what causes lupus or preventing it, we can probably solve a number of autoimmune diseases,” Mayeda added.

The main symptoms include tiredness, joint pain and rashes. At times, lupus can flare up and make existing symptoms more severe.

According to a six-year study by the Lupus Foundation, 46 percent of more than 3,000 adults with lupus reported being misdiagnosed. 

In the same report, more than half were told there was nothing wrong. 

Marielle Vea was six years old when her kidneys began to fail. It took doctors four months to correctly diagnose her with lupus. 

“I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and all I was given from the doctors was aspirin, but because that drug is a blood thinner I was bleeding from my lips,” Vea said.

 Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are both autoimmune diseases. 

The biggest difference between the two is RA primarily attacks the joints and the antibodies can detect viruses.

 It affects the fingers, wrists, knees and ankles, according to Healthwire. 

Typically, inflammation of human tissue and lungs are not visible with patients diagnosed with RA. 

In a 2014 American Journal of Medicine report, 10 to 15 percent of people with lupus will die prematurely due to complications from the disease. 

The Lupus Foundation of Northern California holds fundraising events to help generate awareness. 

The group will hold the Outrun Lupus 5K on June 9. It will be the 24th year the organization has put on the event. 

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