"On a good day, it feels like you're trying to move through a pool of Jell-O." That's how Venetia Thompson of Middletown, Del., describes the exhaustion that she's known most of her life. There have also been periodic headaches and, accompanying each of her three pregnancies, painful lung inflammation. But it wasn't until she developed a whitening of her fingers 6 years ago, at age 40, that Thompson received a diagnosis of lupus. The whitening is one characteristic of the disease, in which the immune system can attack the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, blood, and other tissues. Thompson now takes drugs to keep her overactive immune system from running entirely—perhaps fatally—amok.
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