What Is Lupus?
Do you know what Lupus is?
An Introduction to Lupus
What is Lupus? This disease is very complex and presents with a variety of symptoms that can affect the entire body: it is an auto-immune disease.
What does auto-immune mean? Auto-immune diseases cause the body's defense system (the immune system) to start attacking healthy tissue rather than the invading infections and bacteria. It is thought that due to an excess of antibodies in the blood stream causes inflammation and damage in the joints, muscles and other organs.
Different Types of Lupus:
There are three main forms of Lupus:
- Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
- Drug-induced Lupus
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Who is Affected?
Lupus is an uncommon condition, however, it has been noted that 90% of reported cases occur in women, normally between the ages of 15-50.
Lupus also has different affects among different ethnic groups (UK results):
- 1 in 5,000 white women will develop SLE
- 1 in 1,000 women of Chinese origin will develop SLE
- 1 in 625 African Caribbean women will develop SLE
As you can see certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to developing Lupus which is why it is so important to find a cure so that these statistics will improve.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) is a form of Lupus that only affects the skin, of which only a very small amount of patients go on to develop Systemic Lupus.
DLE symptoms include:
- Hair Loss
- Permanent bald patches
- Red, circular or scaly marks on the skin
Treatment for DLE
This form of Lupus is normally controlled using medication and by avoiding sunlight.
There are certain medications (currently over 100 are already known) that will cause Lupus-like symptoms. However, by stopping treatment and using an alternative will normally reverse the Lupus-like symptoms.
Systemic Lupus Erythermatosus
Systemic Lupus Erythermatosus (SLE) is the type of Lupus that attacks the body's tissues and organs. If it is not controlled properly of if it progresses to a severe state then it can cause permanent organ damage. However, if it is mild-moderate the symptoms can be controlled and the patient can lead a normal life and time span without many issues or complications.
Unfortunately Lupus is not one of these easily categorical diseases. It presents with many symptoms and it is rare for two people to have exactly the same symptoms, and these can vary from one to many.
It is also common for symptoms to wax and wane, developing and receding over time. This is why a diagnosis is often so difficult, the symptoms are rarely set. You may present with fatigue and headaches but in the next month present with flu-like symptoms and depression before going back to the headaches again.
It has been documented that the two main symptoms of Lupus are:
- JOINT/MUSCLE ACHES AND PAIN
- EXTREME TIREDNESS AND WEAKNESS
However, there are multiple symptoms that may accompany those, or may even present by themselves. These include
- Joint/muscle aches and pains
- Permanent rash over cheeks
- Extreme fatigue and weakness
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Rashes from sunlight/UV light
- Flu-like symptoms and/or night sweats
- Weight gain or loss
- Inflammation of the tissues covering internal organs with associated chest and/or abdominal pain
- Seizures, mental illness or other cerebral problems
- Headaches, migraine
- Kidney problems
- Oral/nasal ulcers
- Hair loss
- Haematological disorders including anaemia
- Swollen glands
- Poor blood circulation causing the tips of fingers and toes to turn white then blue on exposure to cold (Raynauds)
Lupus Awareness Video
Triggers of a Lupus Flare
Since Lupus is one of those tricky auto-immune disorders there is no one cause or trigger for developing the disease. Researchers have noted that the following events have been shown to cause Lupus outbreaks in patients that already have a susceptibility to Lupus (including family history of Lupus, M.S, arthritis, rheumatism and other auto-immune disorders):
- at puberty
- during the menopause
- after childbirth
- after viral infection
- through sunlight
- as a result of trauma
- after a prolonged course of some medications
These events can cause worsening symptoms that the patient is already suffering from or cause new ones to develop. A serious risk with flares is that some permanent damage to organs may occur leaving the patient at risk for other diseases as their body becomes more compromised.
LUPUS IS NEITHER CONTAGIOUS NOR INFECTIOUS
Treatments for Lupus
Unfortunately there is currently no cure for the disease. The best course of action is to treat the symptoms so that the patient can lead a normal life - you may have seen in the video that the girl goes back to playing competitive basketball and fulfilling her dream.
Common treatments for Lupus include:
- NSAIDS: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. This is used mainly for joint/muscle pain but drugs such as aspirin, heparin or warfarin can be used to thin the blood (anticoagulation treatment) if they have clotting issues.
- Anti-Malarials: these provide assistance with fatigue, skin and joint problems.
- Steroids: used to reduce inflammation and suppress active disease.
- Immunosuppressants: used when the disease is severe it is useful when the patient presents with kidney disease and steroid dosage needs to be dropped.
- Intravenous Immunoglobulin: an uncommon treatment used when the platelet count is low and there is a risk of bleeding.
- Cyclosporin A: a drug widely used in transplant cases to suppress rejection. This is useful in preventing the body attacking itself.
- Thalidomide: for severe skin disorders this treatment has shown powerful positive results but is an uncommon treatment.
*OF COURSE ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER WHEN CONSIDERING NEW MEDICAL OPTIONS AS THIS IS MERELY INFORMATION NOT MEDICAL ADVICE OR TREATMENT*
More Lupus Resources, Stories, and Tips.
- LUPUS UK
LUPUS UK is the only national registered charity supporting people with systemic lupus and discoid lupus and assiting those approaching diagnosis. LUPUS UK - Caring for people with lupus.
- Raising Awareness for Lupus
Lupus is an incredibly hard condition to diagnose, it can often take years, several medical specialists and money to finally find the answer. This particular lens focuses on raising awareness.
- Living with Lupus |It's Never Lupus: Your turn now Sherlock
This is the story of Halee, a young women who is dealing with Lupus.
- Lupus Foundation for America: A Helping Hand
An introduction to the Lupus Foundation and the great work that they do.
© 2012 Bobby