A summa cum laude has survived Lupus, the disease that sickened and surrendered the late dictator former president Ferdinand Marcos as well as afflicted famous celebrities in the likes of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson and “poker face” pop diva Lady Gaga.

Twenty four-year old Ruthell Moreno has braved the odds, soared high with flying colors and succeeded to become the sole summa cum laude this year of West Visayas State University and the first of Bachelor in Special Education program of College of Education after shifting from Nursing. She’s the lucky 13th summa cum laude with a Grade Point Average of 1.23 in WVSU’s soaring history.

So what’s this rare-sounding disease called Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue resulting in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs, according to website medicalnewstoday.com.

“The immune system makes proteins called antibodies in order to protect and fight against antigens such as viruses and bacteria but Lupus makes the immune system unable to differentiate between antigens and healthy tissue. This leads the immune system to direct antibodies against the healthy tissue – not just antigens – causing swelling, pain, and tissue damage,” the health news website explained.

Doctors, however, do not know exactly what causes Lupus but most believe that it results from both genetic and environmental stimuli.

“Since Lupus is known to occur within families, it is possible to inherit a genetic predisposition to it. There are no known genes, however, that directly cause the illness. It is probable that having an inherited predisposition for Lupus makes the disease more likely only after coming into contact with some environmental trigger,” the website assessed.

Physicians believe the higher number of Lupus cases in females than in males may indicate that it can be triggered by certain hormones such as estrogen that regulates the progression of disease because symptoms tend to flare before menstrual periods and/or during pregnancy, noting it is more common in child-bearing years of 15-45.

Certain environmental factors have been known to cause Lupus symptoms, including extreme stress, exposure to ultraviolet light usually from sunlight, smoking, some medications and antibiotics especially those in the sulfa and penicillin groups, and chemical exposure to compounds such as trichloroethylene in well water and dust.

So what are the Lupus symptoms?

Since no two cases of lupus are exactly alike, there is a wide range of symptoms that are known to affect many body parts which develop slowly or appear suddenly – they can be mild, severe, temporary, or permanent. Most Lupus patients experience symptoms in only a few organs but more serious cases can lead to problems with kidneys, heart, lungs, blood, or nervous system.

Lupus episodes or flares are usually noted by a worsening of some symptoms including achy joints, arthritis, and swollen joints, especially in wrists, small joints of hands, elbows, knees, and ankles; swelling of hands and feet due to kidney problems; fever of more than 38 degrees Celius; prolonged or extreme fatigue; skin lesions or rashes especially on arms, hands, face, neck or back; butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose; anemia; chest pain on deep breathing or shortness of breath; sun or light sensitivity; hair loss; abnormal blood clotting problems; Raynaud’s phenomenon or fingers turning white and blue or red in the cold; seizures; mouth or nose ulcers; weight loss or gain; dry eyes; easy bruising; anxiety, depression, headaches, and memory loss.

Lupus can also lead to complications in several areas of the body including serious kidney damage causing death; in central nervous system causing headaches, dizziness, memory problems, seizures, and behavioral changes; in blood and vessels causing an increased anemia risk, bleeding, blood clotting, and vessel inflammation; in lungs with noninfectious pneumonia and difficulty breathing due to inflammation of chest cavity; in heart muscle and artery inflammation increasing risks of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks; treatments tend to depress the immune system making your body more vulnerable to infection; risks of cancer especially of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung and liver cancers; lower blood supply to bone tissue which leads to tiny breaks and eventual death of bone which is most common in the hip bone; and increases the risk of miscarriage, hypertension during pregnancy, and premature birth.

There is no current cure without new drug discovered to treat the disease in the last 50 years although there are a number of new drugs currently being researched or in clinical trials.

Thus, early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can significantly help control the disease and its symptoms. Treating Lupus effectively consists of minimizing symptoms, reducing inflammation and pain, helping maintain normal function, and preventing serious complications.

Knowing Lupus’ threats to human health and even life, it’s a wonder to know more how Ruthell won the battle against the disease. Her’s is an inspiring story worth telling and living for. Kudos to Ruthell Moreno!