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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) - What is This Mysterious Disease?

Updated on July 25, 2020

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a disease of the immune system which happens when our body's own defense system, instead of protecting the body from enemies like various types of bacteria and viruses, attacks instead the healthy tissues and organs of the body resulting in inflammation of the affected body organs.

There are four main types of lupus but this article will focus on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE or simply Lupus which is the more serious and prevalent type.

The other three types are:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus
  • Drug-induced lupus erythematosus and
  • Neonatal lupus erythematosus

Lupus is a disease that is difficult to diagnose because it manifests symptoms that are also present in other diseases.

One very obvious sign that you have lupus is the presence of rashes on your face that take the shape of butterfly wings spread wide across both cheeks.

Who are most affected by this disease?

The Lupus Foundation of America reports that there are currently about 1.5 to 2 million Americans who are suffering from some type of this disease. It affects 40 out of 100,000 Northern European-Americans and about 200 out of 100,000 African-Americans.

Women of African descent experience very serious symptoms and they have a higher death rate.

Lupus affects more females than males.

Swollen and blue hands
Swollen and blue hands
Mouth sores
Mouth sores

Common signs and symptoms of lupus?

The symptoms that lupus sufferers feel and experience can be intermittent and can vary from person to person but all lupus sufferers experience pain and swelling of the joints in the knees, hands, wrists, and fingers that could eventually lead to arthritis.

  • Pain and swelling of the joints.
  • Rashes on the face that take the shape of a butterfly.
  • Fever and headache
  • Pain in the chest especially when taking a deep breath
  • Mouth sores and lesions
  • Sensitivity to strong light
  • Fingers that turn blue
  • Complications of the kidneys
  • Loss of hair
  • Loss of memory and confusion.

Health experts believe that the hormone estrogen has something to do with the occurrence of symptoms as they appear just right before a woman's menstrual period.

What causes lupus?

Doctors and other health experts say that there is no definite cause of lupus that can be identified but heredity and environmental factors play an important role in the incidence of this disease. It is also caused by certain types of infection, prolonged exposure to sunlight and taking certain kinds of medications.

How is lupus treated?

Medical literature indicates that there is no known treatment for lupus and no drug has been manufactured for the last half of the century for the purpose of treating this disease.

Treatment of lupus involves alleviating the pain and swelling, helping the patient to function normally, and minimizing complications

Learn more about lupus in this video presentation

Body organs affected by lupus complications

Complications of the kidneys is usually the main cause of death of lupus patients. That is why for a long time, people thought that lupus is a disease of the kidneys because of the high incidence of death due to kidney complications among lupus patients.

Kidney complications appear within the first five years that the disease is diagnosed but there are harldy any signs of the disease attacking the kidneys. The first signs you'll notice, though are swelling of the feet, arms, fingers, legs, and ankles and weight gain. The swelling usually worsens as the day wears on. Your urine has froth-like consistency and it is red in color.

It can cause inflammation of the heart muscles and arteries that could lead to heart attack and other heart diseases.

It makes you more prone to anemia when blood vessels are affected. It also causes inflammation of the blood vessels, bleeding and blood clotting.

It causes headaches, changes in behaviour, dizziness, and memory lapses when the nerves and the nervous system have been affected by the illness.

It can increase the incidence of cancer especially lung cancer, liver cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Pregnant and expecting women should protect themselves from getting systemic lupus erythematosus or simply lupus as it could pose danger to the unborn baby such as premature birth, miscarriage, and hypertension.


© 2014 Zee Mercado

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