Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.
In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu).
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.
SLE can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the areas of the body affected.
Anyone can get lupus, but it most often affects women. Lupus is also more common in women of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.The cause of lupus is not known. Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely that many factors trigger the disease.
There are several kinds of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type. It can be mild or severe, and can affect many parts of the body.
- Discoid lupus causes a red rash that doesn’t go away
- Subacute cutaneous lupus causes sores after being out in the sun
- Drug-induced lupus is caused by certain medicines. It usually goes away when you stop taking the medicine.
- Neonatal lupus, which is rare, affects newborns. It is probably caused by certain antibodies from the mother.
Lupus And The Effect It Can Have On Your Life
A whopping 90 percent of people with lupus experience some level of fatigue, according to the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center. An afternoon nap does the trick for some people, but sleeping too much during the day can lead to insomnia at night. It may be hard to do, but if you can remain active and stick to a daily routine, you may be able to keep your energy levels up.
If you are living with debilitating fatigue, speak to your doctor. Some causes of fatigue can be successfully treated.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and fever
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
For those wondering if they have the disease, the age of onset is usually between 15 and 44, and the Lupus Foundation says women of color are more likely to have it than whites. And while the most common form of lupus, called systemic lupus erythematosus, is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and environment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that there is a form of lupus stemming from a person’s overreaction to certain medications that will disappear when the meds are stopped.
According to a report published in the Maedica Journal of Clinical Medicine, because lupus shares many symptoms with other illnesses — including thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, Lyme disease or other autoimmune disorders — it can be hard for patients to receive a proper diagnosis of lupus. Some experts have even nicknamed lupus “the great imitator” because lupus symptoms are often confused with various other health problems, often leading to a long road of recovery for patients. Most people with lupus are diagnosed in their 20s or 30s, sometimes after years of “not feeling right” and visiting many different practitioners for tests.
Cause And Treatment
No cure for SLE exists. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. Treatment can vary depending on how severe your symptoms are and which parts of your body SLE affects. The treatments may include:
- anti-inflammatory medications for joint pain and stiffness
- steroid creams for rashes
- corticosteroids to minimize the immune response
- antimalarial drugs for skin and joint problems
- disease modifying drugs or targeted immune system agents for more severe cases
LUPUS UK is the only national registered charity supporting people with systemic lupus and discoid lupus and assisting those approaching diagnosis. We presently have over 5500 Members and a number of Regional Groups around the UK who arrange medical talks, publish local newsletters, set up local occasions and organize fundraising events.
Results from one study could help to expedite the delivery of new and safer therapies to people with lupus. The study is part of the Lupus Foundation of America Collective Data Analysis Initiative (LFA CDAI), which is a collaboration among multiple companies to improve lupus clinical trials. Developed in 2009, LFA CDAI analyzes data from pharmaceutical and biotechnology–sponsored lupus studies from around the world to identify trends and gain new insights.
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