WHAT IS LUPUS OR SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS?

Normally, the immune system fights foreign bodies to protect the body. In autoimmune diseases, it attacks its own healthy organs and tissues mistaking it as foreign bodies. S.L.E or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is one such chronic inflammatory disease of the immune system.

The major breakthrough in the identification of Lupus took place when Morton, Richmond and Hargraves revealed LE cells at the Mayo Clinic in the year of 1948. This serologic finding marks the foundation of the modern era in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

There are types of lupus, but SLE is the most common type. However, when one says ‘Lupus’, it is generally referred to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE. The word ‘Lupus’ stands for ‘wolf’ in Latin. In middle age, this disease was marked by erosive skin lesions that resemble a wolf’s bite.

According to Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million Americans are living with Lupus. However, the count of actual fighters is much higher and still not diagnosed. It can affect any body part including skin, joint, kidneys, lungs, heart, blood vessel as well as the brain.

The symptoms of Lupus range between mild and mortally severe. People with Lupus can live a normal life. However, there are phases when the symptoms worsen, causing a trigger. Extreme cases of SLE have lead to thousands of deaths. It is generally seen in people aging from 14 to 55. Moreover, it is nine times more common among women than men.

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WHO ARE AT A HIGHER RISK OF GETTING DIAGNOSED WITH LUPUS?

Lupus can happen to anyone. However, following people are more prone to get it.

  1. 90 percent of people diagnosed with Lupus are females. That doesn’t men don’t have Lupus. Both kids and men can have lupus.
  2. It strikes individuals, mostly aging from 14 to 45. However, it can also occur among kids as well as older people.
  3. In comparison to white women, women of Native American, Asian, African descent are 2 to 3 times more likely to have Lupus.
  4. Lupus can be genetic.

Therefore, anyone with symptoms of lupus should go and consult a doctor. Don’t wait for the symptoms to worsen. Otherwise, it gets difficult for the doctors and yourself to control it.

TYPES OF LUPUS

There are four categories of Lupus; SLE or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, DLE or Discoid Lupus Erythematosus, DIL or Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus and Neonatal Lupus.

A. SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS is the most common and serious among of all kinds of Lupus and mostly referred to as “Lupus”. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe and can affect several body parts including heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin as well as blood.

B. DISCOID LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS is limited to the skin only. It causes rashes all over the body, but mostly found on the neck, face, and scalp. It doesn’t affect internally. Yet, it is seen that 10% of people with DLE, later on develops Systemic Lupus erythematosus as well.

C. DRUG-INDUCED LUPUS happens after a person takes specific prescription medicine. The medications that are associated with DIL may include Hydralazine, Isoniazid as well as Procainamide. The symptoms are like those of Systemic Lupus, but it hardly influences any major body organs. Generally, it disappears within six months of stopping the medication. However, the ANA test that diagnoses lupus can continue being positive for years.

D. NEONATAL LUPUS is rare and happens to the newborns born to the moms with lupus. It is basically the antibodies of the mom acting upon the baby in her womb. Neonatal lupus can cause anemia, liver problems as well as skin rashes in the baby. Usually, it vanishes in a few months without any enduring effects. However, some may develop serious heart defects. These days, doctors can identify the moms with high-risk and accordingly take care of them before babies’ birth. Presently, most of the newborns born to the moms with lupus are healthy.

CAUSES OF LUPUS

The root cause of lupus is still unknown. However, it is believed that environment and genetics play a certain role as it may run into the family. Again, it affects women, 90% more than men. Even though, it generally affects people aging from 15 to 45, but it can affect infants and elders too. According to some researchers, even hormones play a part in Lupus. Again, some believe that it occurs after a protein-like organism infects the person. The immunity system of the human body mistakes body’s protein for the organism attacks itself. Therefore, causes the chronic autoimmune disorder named S.L.E.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF LUPUS

Both Lupus and its symptoms vary from one person to another. However, the common symptoms of Lupus are;

  1. Unexplained high fever.
  2. Fatigue.
  3. Joint pain/swollen joints.
  4. Stiffness and pain in the muscle.
  5. Skin rashes (including butterfly-shaped rash over the nose and cheeks).
  6. Hair loss
  7. Oral or vaginal ulcer.
  8. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain.
  9. Acute sensitivity to sunlight (even artificial strong lights).
  10. Anemia.
  11. Seizures, migraine.
  12. Leakage of protein in the urine.
  13. Depression.
  14. High Blood Pressure.

When anyone meets four of the mentioned criteria, he or she is at a high risk to have Lupus. For more details, check out the Clinical and Immunologic criteria according to SLICC (Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics).

TREATMENTS OF LUPUS

Treatment varies from one person to another, depending on the severity of symptoms and the effects on the body organs. There is a wide range of medications and doctors may alter them time to time depending on the symptoms. However, it can even take years to discover the right combination of drugs that would work for you.

There are only a few FDA-approved drugs for treating Lupus. It includes

  1. Corticosteroids like Prednisolone, methylprednisolone, prednisone.
  2. Antimalarial drugs like hydrochloroquine.
  3. Cyclophosphamide therapy.
  4. Belimumab or Benlysta®.
  5. Aspirin.
  6. Acthar or repository corticotrophin injections.

These medicines cannot cure Lupus, but at least control the symptoms and avert the organ damages. When Lupus seriously damage the body organs, doctors may consider a surgery for palliative purposes. Moreover, people with lupus are treated by rheumatologists but depending on the involvement of the body parts and organs, one may need to consult the specialists as well. For example, a nephrologist for kidney, a neurologist for the brain, a dermatologist for skin, a cardiologist for the heart.

Depending on the age, symptoms, overall health the doctor develops a plan appropriate for the patient. Although, the basic goal of every treatment plan remains the same i.e.

  1. Reduce the severity of Lupus symptoms like inflammation, fever, loss of protein, fatigue, joint pain.
  2. Repress the overactive immune system.
  3. Reduce the harmful effect on the organs.
  4. Prevent the flares and treat them as they occur.

Moreover, a person living with lupus should follow a few home remedies and lifestyle changes apart from taking the necessary medications. It includes getting proper rest, avoiding the sun, regular check-up, exercise, saying no to smoking and eating a healthy balanced diet.

SUPPORT FOR LUPUS

Lupus doesn’t affect one individual, but an entire family as a whole. Therefore, for both the patient and his/her family need support. Living with lupus is not easy if you don’t have the love and support of your closed ones. Even a person with the best medical facilities may lose the slightest battle of life without hope, willpower and support.

Therefore, put yourself in his/place place before saying anything. Support someone as you would like to be supported if it were you!

For more details check out;

  1. Lupus & Emotions
  2. Role of Family Support
  3. Things You Should Not Tell One Living with Lupus