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Lupus – Pictures, Life Expectancy, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on December 11, 2013

Lupus is a persistent inflammatory condition caused due to erroneous attack of the varied healthy organs and tissues in the body by the immune system. Lupus induced inflammation can affect several different body systems such as the skin, joints, blood cells, kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs.

The signs and symptoms of lupus often tend to be similar to those elicited by other disorders. This can pose difficulties in its proper diagnosis. One of the most definitive symptoms of lupus is the occurrence of a unique rash across both the cheeks and the nasal bridge. The rash looks like the wings of a butterfly. It occurs in most cases of lupus, but not all.

Some individuals may be born with a genetic predisposition to developing lupus, which may get activated by intake of certain medications, infections, or even after exposure to sunlight. This however does not mean that the condition is hereditary. Lupus has no known cure. However, varied treatment options can help manage the symptoms.

Symptoms of Lupus

No two instances of lupus are exactly the same. The signs and symptoms of the disease may occur gradually or have a sudden onset; they may be severe or minor; and they can be short-term or permanent. Most individuals with lupus suffer from mild cases that comprise of bouts called flares wherein the symptoms worsen for some time, and later get better, or even completely fade away for some time.

The different symptoms of lupus experienced by patients are dependent on the body system that is affected by the condition. Some of the common signs and symptoms of lupus are listed below:

  • Appearance of a distinctive rash that looks like the wings of a butterfly, and which is spread across both the cheeks and the nasal bridge.
  • Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Skin lesions which tend to aggravate after exposure to sunlight
  • Breathlessness
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, wherein the body extremities such as the toes and fingers become blue or white during elevated stress or after contact with cold temperatures.
  • Pain in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Headaches
  • Presence of dry eyes

The inflammation associated with lupus can affect different organs and tissues in the body, including:

  • Lupus can result in severe kidney damage. Kidney failure is one of main causes of fatalities in lupus patients. Kidney anomalies can cause symptoms such as chest pain, generalized itchiness, vomiting, nausea, and edema or leg swelling.
  • Lupus may cause problems of the blood such as elevated risk to blood clotting or bleeding, and anemia. It may also result in vasculitis or blood vessels inflammation.
  • Lupus can also cause brain abnormalities. Affected people may suffer from dizziness, headaches, hallucinations, changes in behavior, and seizures or strokes. Many individuals may also experience problems in articulating their thoughts and/or memory difficulties.
  • Lupus can lead to inflammation of the arteries, heart muscle or cardiac membrane. Patients are also at increased risk to developing heart attacks and cardiovascular abnormalities.
  • Presence of lupus also greatly increases the risk to developing pleurisy or chest cavity lining inflammation. This condition can then result in painful breathing.
  • A compromised immune system resulting from lupus and its treatment with immunosuppressant drugs can increase the risk to varied infections as well as cancer.

Causes of Lupus

Lupus is caused due to the mistaken attack of healthy tissue in the body by the immune system. Research indicates that lupus may be caused due to a combination of the environmental factors and the patient’s genetics. Studies show that people with an inherited tendency for lupus may develop the condition after getting exposed to certain environmental factors that eventually activate lupus. However, in most cases, doctors are not aware of the exact causes. Some of the possible triggers of lupus include:

  • Lupus can get activated by some kinds of anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medicines, and antibiotics. Patients suffering from medication-induced lupus generally notice that the abnormal symptomsdisappear after stopping the intake of that specific medication.
  • Contact with sun rays may also trigger the formation of lupus skin lesions, or activate some other type of internal reaction.

Some other factors which can increase the susceptibility of developing lupus are as follows:

  • Women are more likely to get affected by lupus than men
  • Lupus is more prevalent in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics
  • Lupus can occur in people from all age groups. However, it is most commonly observed in people between ages 15 and 40 years.

Life expectancy of Lupus patients

Most individuals with lupus tend to live a near-normal or a normal life span. The life expectancy of lupus patients is however dependent on the severity of the disease; whether or not important organs like kidneys are affected; and the severity of abnormalities affecting the vital organs.

Lupus was still a subject of extensive research until recently. Lupus patients generally died at a younger age, often due to anomalies of crucial organs. However, with the advancements in medical technology the disease can be treated with a lot more success rate. This has considerably increased the life expectancy of lupus affected people. Nearly ninety percent of patients can live for a minimum of five years after diagnosis, while approximately 70 percent can expect to live for 20 years or more post diagnosis.

Treatment of Lupus

Treatment of lupus is carried out as per the symptoms experienced by the individual patient. Doctors will decide on the type of drugs and the scope of treatment only after a complete diagnosis.

Some of the common treatment options for lupus are listed below:

  • Lupus symptoms can be managed with anti-malarial medications
  • Inflammation can be alleviated with corticosteroids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce pain, swelling, and fever
  • Serious instances of lupus may need to be treated with immunosuppressant medications

The below listed self-care steps can be followed by patients to prevent episodes of flare-ups:

  • Take adequate rest to compensate for elevated fatigue
  • Apply sunscreen and wear sufficient protection when outdoors under the sun
  • Stop smoking
  • Consume a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly. This will help boost the immune system, improve your overall well-being, and reduce the risk of lupus complications.

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