Lupus

About

Lupus

What is lupus?

Lupus is a form of autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. This means that the body’s own natural defense (immune) system begins to work against healthy tissue rather than protecting the body from infections and precancerous cells. Lupus is a chronic disease that affects each person differently. However, one common sign of lupus is a hallmark butterfly-shaped rash that covers both cheeks and the bridge of the nose. The symptoms of this condition can vary dramatically from person to person because the inflammation caused by lupus has the capacity to affect many different bodily systems. These systems include:

  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Internal organs (kidney, heart and lungs)
  • Brain
  • Blood cells

Are there different kinds of lupus?

There are a few different kinds of lupus. When people talk about lupus, they’re generally referring to systemic lupus. However, it’s worth noting that there are a few distinct types of lupus that have been identified. These kinds are:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or simply systemic lupus.
  • Cutaneous (Discoid) lupus is a type of lupus that limits itself to the skin.
  • Drug-induced lupus involves lupus-like symptoms that are actually induced by prescription drugs.
  • Neonatal lupus, which is an uncommon condition affecting the newborn children of women who have been diagnosed with lupus or Sjogren’s.

Causes

What causes lupus?

Because lupus is an autoimmune disease, it’s likely to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. It’s thought that certain individuals are born with a predisposition toward the condition, which can be triggered according to external circumstances. Although some individuals are born with this predisposition toward developing lupus, in the vast majority of cases, the cause is unknown. Some potential triggers of the lupus condition include:

  • Infections
  • Sunlight
  • Certain medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress

Who gets lupus?

As mentioned above, some individuals have an inherent predisposition toward lupus, while others do not. In addition to this, there are a number of other risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of contracting lupus:

  • Gender: Women are (9-10) times more likely to develop lupus than men.
  • Race: More cases of lupus have been reported among African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics.
  • Age: Between late adolescence to middle adulthood is typically when flare-ups and subsequent diagnoses occur, although lupus can be found in individuals of all ages.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of lupus?

The symptoms of lupus vary from individual to individual, with cases ranging from mild to severe. Most people with lupus experience flare-ups of conditions wherein their symptoms temporarily increase in severity. Your lupus symptoms will depend on which of your bodily systems is affected by the disease. Some classic signs of lupus are:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Chest pain
  • Joint pain or inflammation
  • Butterfly-shaped rash that covers the face
  • Rashes on the rest of the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dryness of the eyes
  • Headaches, memory loss, or confusion

How can I track my lupus symptoms over time and communicate them to my physicians? If you visit the US in Lupus website: https://www.usinlupus.com/symptoms-tracking-kit/ and sign up with them, you will have access to their lupus symptom tracker and other valuable patient tools for more successfully tracking and managing your lupus.

How does lupus affect daily life?

Depending on the severity of your case, lupus may turn normal daily activities into a challenge. During episodes of severe joint pain or fatigue, you may find yourself struggling with simple tasks. When you don’t demonstrate visible signs of illness, those around you may not recognize just how much discomfort you are really in. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to improve your symptoms and live a fulfilling life.

If you want to connect with other patients with lupus and learn from their personal experiences, check out the Lupus Buddy Program: https://www.lfnc.org/lupus-buddy.html from the Lupus Foundation of Northern California.

Diagnosis

How is lupus diagnosed?

It may be a good idea to see your doctor if you are suffering from an unexplained or chronic rash, persistent fever, or constant fatigue. Lupus is frequently misdiagnosed because it presents so differently from person to person. Its vast range of symptoms means the condition is often misdiagnosed as other ailments. Your doctor will conduct a variety of tests to determine whether or not you have lupus:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Imaging tests and X-rays
  • Biopsy (usually of kidney or skin)

Treatment

Can lupus be cured?

There is no definitive cure for lupus, but treatment can help control symptoms. Because it is a chronic condition, it will be present in some capacity for the rest of your life. The kind of treatment you pursue for your lupus will depend on the symptoms you have. You and your doctor will review the risks and benefits of each treatment option. Frequent monitoring is 

important to ensure you are receiving the correct dosages and medication type at all times. 

Although there is no cure for SLE, early intervention has been shown to be greatly beneficial for those suffering from SLE and helps them to function almost to normal levels and lead regular lives. The goal of treatment includes reducing inflammation, pain, and preventing permanent joint and other organ damage (kidney, lung, heart, brain & nerves). Although medications appear to be the most common method for the management of SLE, TeleMed2U rheumatologists also offer integrative, holistic treatment approaches as well, based upon a “S.E.N.S.E.” - ible approach: Stress management, Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep & positive social Engagements. 

Some of the most commonly prescribed medication used to help treat lupus includes:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Immunosuppressants.
  • Biologics.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Antimalarial drugs.

What can I do at home to improve my lupus symptoms?

In addition to pharmaceutical intervention, there are a number of simple relief strategies you can pursue from the comfort of your own home. These lifestyle remedies include:

References

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, January 27). Lupus. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/symptoms-causes/syc-20365789
What is lupus? Lupus Foundation of America. https://www.lupus.org/resources/what-is-lupus

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Roy Kedem started his premedical studies at Harvard, and research in genetics and gene sequencing at Harvard, Beth Israel. He attended medical school in the UK at the Cambridge Overseas Medical Program in 1998.  Dr Kedem then completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in Stamford, Connecticut and his fellowship in Hospital Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Initial Visit

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