What is lupus?
Lupus is a common autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s normal immune system attacks your cells, tissues, and organs. Moreover, lupus then causes inflammation that can affect your various body parts — including the joints, kidneys, skin, blood cells, heart, brain, and lungs.
This disorder can be very difficult to diagnose as its signs and symptoms often simulate those of other diseases. The most novel sign of lupus is the facial rash that simulates the wings of a butterfly flattening across both cheeks and happens in many but not every case of lupus.
It should be noted that some people possess lupus as a congenital illness and they have it since birth, which may be increased or is appeared by infections, some drugs, or even by sunlight exposure. Although there’s no cure for lupus, still, treatments can help control symptoms.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus/Lupus Erythematosus/SLE lupus/Systemic Lupus
Our immune system is responsible for fighting off harmful pathogens and bacteria and kills them. The autoimmune disease happens if the immune system attacks the normal and healthy tissues and cells of the body considering it a foreign body. There are several known autoimmune diseases, the most common of them is the systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
The word lupus describes many diseases of the immune system that have fairly identical signs and symptoms and lab findings, however, SLE is known as the most common kind of lupus. Often people use term lupus for SLE.
SLE is a persistent disease that can have periods of worsening symptoms alternating with phases of mild symptoms. Mostly the SLE patients can have a normal life.
SLE is mostly due to idiopathic reasons, however, genetics, environment, female gender, and hormones seem to play a role in the etiology of the disease.
Discoid Lupus/Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
The discoid lupus erythematosus is the persistent skin condition in which the inflammatory sores along with scarring happens. These sores are formed typically on the scalp, face, and ears. Also, they may form on the other areas of the body as well.
Such lesions are red, inflammatory patches along with some scarring and crusting. These are lighter in the center with a dark rim surrounding the patch.
These lesions cause hair loss if they occur on the scalp and beard. Some patients can even develop the disorder of internal organs as well.
This disease can be diagnosed by taking a skin biopsy of the patch. The skin biopsy will show whether it is discoid lupus erythematosus or not.
If the biopsy gives discoid lupus erythematosus, then additional blood testing is required.
The accurate cause is not known, however, it is conceived to be an autoimmune disease. This disease also has a genetic predisposition as well. Also, it is more common in females. A few patients with discoid lupus erythematosus, exposure to sunlight, and smoking can trigger the formation of lesions.
Lupus Symptoms & Signs of Lupus/Lupus Symptoms Women
Symptoms of lupus are highly variable. The signs and symptoms can occur abruptly or grow slowly, may be moderate or severe, and may be temporary or persistent. Most people with lupus have mild symptoms comprising episodes — called flares — during which the signs and symptoms get more serious for a while, which may ultimately improve or even vanish completely for some time.
Early Lupus Symptoms
The early lupus symptoms are comparable to some other disorders. Thus, having these symptoms does not give an accurate clue that whether you have lupus or not. Early lupus symptoms include:
- hair loss
- pulmonary problems
- kidney problems
- gastrointestinal problems
- swollen joints
- dry mouth and eyes
- thyroid problems
Typical Lupus Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of lupus will depend on the body systems and organs affected by the disease. The most typical signs and symptoms include:
- Joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash present on the face that involves the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. Rashes on other parts of the body may also occur.
- Fingers and toes are turned white or blue on exposure to cold or during the periods of stress (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Skin lesions that trigger or worsen with exposure to sunlight (photosensitivity)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, dizziness, cognitive impairment, confusion, and memory loss
Butterfly Rash/Malar rash/Lupus Butterfly Rash/Skin Lupus Rash/Lupus Face Rash
The most obvious sign of lupus is the butterfly-shaped rash that is formed on the cheeks and also on the bridge of the nose.
Malar rash is also called a butterfly rash. It is a facial rash that is red-purple and is formed in a “butterfly” pattern. It is present across the cheeks and also covers the bridge of the nose, however, it spares the rest of the face. The malar rash may be flat or raised.
A malar rash may happen with several different disorders and conditions, including sunburn, rosacea, and lupus.
It can present with scaling, pain, and itching of the lesion, but the blisters are never formed. Sunlight aggravates the malar rash. So, it can develop on different body parts that are exposed to the sun. This rash can last for several days or even weeks at a time.
Causes of malar rash
Many diseases may cause a malar rash including:
- Seborrheic dermatitis.
- Lyme disease
- Bloom syndrome
When should I see a doctor
You must promptly consult your doctor if you experience an unexplained rash, fever, constant aching, or fatigue.
Lupus can happen when your body’s immune system tends to attack healthy cells and tissues in your body (an autoimmune disease). It’s quite likely that lupus outcomes from a combination of your genetics and your environment.
It seems that people with a hereditary sensitivity for this illness may contract the disease if they come into close contact with anything in the environment that can stimulate the disease. The cause of lupus is unknown in most cases. Some likely stimulators include:
- Sunlight. The direct exposure to the sun may trigger lupus skin lesions or an internal response in susceptible people.
- Infections. Having an infection can start lupus or cause a recurrence in some people.
- Medications. Lupus can be stimulated by certain types of medication including anti-hypertensives, anti-seizure medications, and certain antibiotics. People who possess drug-induced lupus mostly improve when they stop the medication entirely. Occasionally the symptoms may still occur endure even after the drug is stopped.
Risk factors of lupus
Factors that can increase your risk of lupus include:
- Gender. Lupus is more widespread in women.
- Age. Though lupus affects people of all ages, mostly it is seen between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Race. Lupus is more common in African-Americans, Asian -Americans, and Hispanics.
Complications of lupus
Lupus causes inflammation that can affect many areas of the body, including:
- Kidneys. Lupus has serious effects on one’s kidney. It causes considerable kidney damage, and kidney failure becomes the major cause of death in lupus patients.
- Central nervous system. Lupus can affect your brain and you might experience changes in mood/behavior, unexplained headaches, vision problems, dizziness, and even strokes or fits. Also, many people may experience cognitive dysfunction.
- Cardiovascular system. Lupus can cause blood problems, including anemia and an enhanced propensity of bleeding or blood clotting. It may cause inflammation of the blood vessels called vasculitis.
- Heart. Lupus can cause even the inflammation of your heart muscle as well. Also, your arteries or heart membrane (pericarditis) can be inflamed due to lupus. The chances of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks increase a great deal.
- Lungs. Lupus increases your possibilities of receiving an infection or inflammation of the chest cavity lining called pleurisy, which can result in painful breathing. Bleeding into the lungs (hemothorax) and pneumonia is also a possibility.
Other types of complications in lupus
Lupus also increases your risk of:
- Repeated Infection. People having lupus are more receptive to infection because the disease and the treatments have weakened the immune system.
- Risk of Cancer. Lupus raises your risk of having cancer; however, the risk is trivial.
- Bone death (avascular necrosis). In lupus patients, the risk of avascular necrosis increases deliberately. It happens when the blood supply to the bone drops, thus leading to small breaks in the bone and ultimately to bone destruction.
- Complications of lupus in pregnancy. Women with lupus have an increased probability of miscarriage. This condition raises the risk of hypertension during pregnancy (preeclampsia) and premature birth of the baby. To decrease the risk of getting these complications, physicians often recommend delaying pregnancy until the disease has been controlled for at least six months.
In SLE, your clinical history and the medical history of closed family members are important. The doctor will ask you for any evidence of similar illness in parents, first degree relatives, siblings, grandparents, or uncles.
There is no characteristic diagnostic analysis for systemic lupus is available. The most common test done for SLE is named the antinuclear antibody test (ANA). This is still not a definite analysis for lupus, though. A diversity of lab tests are available to detect the conditions and circumstances occurring in your body with lupus. Each test will help your physician making an appropriate diagnosis.
Laboratory analyses have the following limitations:
- Not a single lab test can conclude accurately whether a person has lupus or not.
- Test outcomes that are suggesting lupus can even be due to any other illness.
- Different labs can give different results or the same lab can give different results at other times.
If multiple diagnostic criteria are fulfilled in a patient, it will help your physician to reach an accurate diagnosis. However, if the symptoms appear slowly over time, the diagnosis will not be clear. In such cases, physicians recommend consultation with a specialized rheumatologist.
Is Lupus curable?
Lupus hits each patient distinctly. Even the twins sharing the same genetic material, people living in the same environment can have different lupus symptoms.
In some people, the disease will show up, become quiescent, and then go into the phase of remission. Even this disease course may not occur regularly.
However, in other patients, lupus can continue in a persistent state. Some people can produce somewhat frequent flashes of illness. However, others may produce only one episode every few years, or even every 10 years.
In the first five years of disease, both the doctor and the patient remain uncertain about the course of the disease. During this time it is very difficult to find an accurate treatment plan that is suitable for some particular symptoms. It is also necessary to watch for complications of the disease or any new problems.
Take a reasonable approach to your well-being and follow these guidelines:
- You must take the prescribed medication on time.
- Tell all unusual symptoms to your physician immediately
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Get lots of rest and exercise
These measures will help you through your bad times. With time, you’ll see it is essential not to be too rigid on yourself of having lupus. You will come to know that to have great physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, it is so important to be kind to yourself
There is not a specific lupus treatment for lupus yet, but the following treatments will aid you to feel better and also it will improve the symptoms
The aims of treatment are to:
- To prevent or lessen disease flares
- Treat the signs when they appear
- To reduce the internal organ damage and other disorders.
Your treatment may include medications to:
- Reduce the inflammation and pain
- Suppress your immune system to stop it from attacking the tissues and organs in the body
- Decrease or restrict the damage that is happening to the joints
Various kinds of medicines can treat lupus. Also, your medications can be changed according to your symptoms.
Medications used to treat lupus
The different types of medications that are used in the treatment of lupus include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen will help decrease mild pain and inflammation in the joints and also the muscles.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids including the prednisone can help lessen inflammation and pain. When given in high doses, these will suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids are available in different forms including the pills, a cream, or a shot. Lupus symptoms seem to respond quickly to corticosteroids. Afterward, your physician will decrease your dose gradually until you no longer require it. The more prolonged a person utilizes these drugs, the more difficult it becomes to reduce the dose. Also, withdrawing this medicine abruptly can harm your body.
- Antimalarial drugs. Medications that inhibit or treat malaria can also treat joint distress, skin diseases, weakness, and lung soreness. The two most common antimalarial medicines include hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate. Researches found that using the antimalarial medication can prevent lupus flashes and can help patients with lupus live longer.
- BLyS-specific inhibitors. These drugs will restrict the number of unusual B cells (the cells in the bone marrow that create antibodies) found in patients with lupus. The most common type of BLyS-specific inhibitor, belimumab, hinders the action of a particular protein in the body that is essential in the immune responses
- Immunosuppressive agents. These medicines can be used, but only in severe cases of lupus disease. These are given when the disease affects larger organs and previous treatments do not work. These medicines have serious side effects because they lower down the body’s capability to fight off infections.
- Other medicines. You may also require other medications to treat diseases linked to lupus — such as hypertension or osteoporosis. Most patients with lupus are also at extreme risk for the development of blood clots, which can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. So, your physician may prescribe anticoagulants to restrict the blood from clotting. However, you cannot take warfarin during pregnancy.
You must consult your doctor:
- About the side effects of drugs
- When your medications are not treating your symptoms
- You have increased symptoms
- If you are planning a pregnancy
- Any vitamins or other supplements you take