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Lupus – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on November 19, 2013

Lupus is a persistent inflammatory condition caused by erroneous attack of different organs and tissues in the body by the immune system. The disease can cause inflammation of a variety of body systems such as the kidneys, joints, lungs, skin, brain, blood cells, and heart.

Diagnosis of lupus can be quite difficult as its signs and symptoms are similar to those elicited by other diseases. It most unique symptom is however a distinctive facial rash that occurs across both cheeks and the nasal bridge, and appears like the wings of a butterfly. It may also be noted that the butterfly rash may not occur in all patients.

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to lupus which may get triggered by use of certain medications, onset of infections, or even excessive sunlight exposure. Lupus has no known cure, and treatment is aimed at alleviating and managing the symptoms.

Symptoms of lupus

Lupus occurring in two different individuals may not elicit the exact signs and symptoms. The symptoms can be mild or serious, may have a sudden or gradual onset, and can be either permanent or temporary. A majority of patients suffer from mild instances of lupus that feature bouts of temporary flare up of symptoms, which then improve or completely fade away for some time.

The signs and symptoms of lupus are dependent on the body systems that get affected. Some common symptoms are listed below:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • A butterfly-shaped facial rash that forms across the nasal bridge and both the cheeks

  • Stiffness, pain, and swelling of the joints

  • Dry eyes

  • Appearance, or worsening of skin lesions after contact with sunlight

  • Breathlessness

  • Raynaud's phenomenon, i.e. discoloration of the toes and fingers during excess stress experience, or after exposure to cold environments.

  • Headaches

  • Confusion, disorientation, and/or memory loss

  • Pain in the chest

Lupus inflammation can affect different body organs such as:

  • Lupus can result in inflammation of the brain and cause changes in behavior, headaches, hallucinations, dizziness, seizures or strokes. Affected individuals may also face problems in elucidating their thoughts, as well as memory issues.

  • There can be severe kidney damage along with symptoms like swelling of legs, chest pain, vomiting, generalized itchiness, and vomiting. Kidney failure is one of the major causes of fatalities in lupus patients.

  • Problems of the blood vessels like vasculitis, or of the blood itself such as elevated risk to clotting or bleeding disorders, and anemia.

  • There may be inflammation of the cardiac arteries, membrane, or muscle, in addition to increased risk to heart attacks and cardiovascular conditions.

  • There is increased risk to pleurisy or chest cavity wall inflammation, which can cause painful breathing

It may also be noted that people with lupus have a weakened immune system and hence prone to developing varied infections. They are also at increased risk to cancer and death of bone tissue. The latter occurs due to decreased blood flow to the bones. Affected women are more likely to develop complications during pregnancy.

Causes of lupus

Lupus is not a contagious condition. It does not spread from one individual to another. It is an autoimmune disorder that is caused due to the mistaken attack of the immune system on varied tissues of the body.

Studies indicate that some people are born with a tendency towards developing lupus which can get triggered after contact with different environmental factors. In a majority of cases, the exact cause of lupus remains undiagnosed. Medications and sun exposure are some of the possible triggers for lupus.

  • An episode of lupus can get triggered via intake of certain blood pressure drugs, anti-seizure medicines, and antibiotics. The symptoms of drug-induced lupus typically disappear after a patient ceases the consumption of that medication.

  • Contact with sunlight can also result in development of skin lesions, or activate some sort of internal reaction in vulnerable individuals.

Other factors that can increase the susceptibility to developing lupus include:

  • Lupus occurs across age groups, but is more commonly diagnosed in people between ages 15 and 40 years

  • Women experience increased instances of lupus as compared to men

  • People of African American, Asian, and Hispanic origins are at greater risk to developing lupus

Treatment of lupus

Treatment of lupus is dependent on the symptoms exhibited by the patient. The scope of treatment and the type of medications to be given are decided by the doctor after a thorough diagnosis.

Treatment may include:

  • Antimalarial drugs to manage the lupus symptoms

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate swelling, pain, and fever.

  • Corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.

  • Severe cases of lupus may require therapy with immune suppressants.

Patients can also follow the below listed self-care guidelines to decrease the instances of lupus flare-ups:

  • Use sunscreen and wear adequate protection when venturing out into the sun

  • Get sufficient rest to counter the effects of excessive fatigue

  • Avoid/quit smoking

  • Engage in regular exercising and eat a healthy and balanced diet to enhance the overall well-being, thereby decreasing the risk to complications associated with lupus.

Lupus Pictures

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