Are you having some joint pain, high blood pressure, or facing damage to the skin? You might be having an autoimmune disease called Lupus.
You might be facing an increase in many diseases, as your immune system does not seem to work properly.
The immune system in our body is essential as it protects us from attacks of Bacteria and Viruses. However, when the immune system mistakenly attacks itself, it is termed an Autoimmune Disease.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which our immune system starts attacking our body’s tissues and cells.
It has a very complex structure due to which some people call “the disease of 1,000 faces.”
In the USA, every year around 16,000 cases of lupus are reported. Many people up to 1.5 billion might be living with the disease according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
Lupus affects women in particular and is likely to occur between the ages of 15 to 44 years.
When the singer Selena Gomez announced in 2015 that she was diagnosed with lupus in her late teens, lupus gained worldwide attention.
Moreover, studies show that this disease is not a contagious disease. It cannot be transmitted to another person in any way.
Nevertheless, if a woman with lupus gives birth to a child then it is possible for her to pass the disease to her child. This is known as neonatal lupus.
Let us discuss what are Autoimmune diseases.
What are Autoimmune Diseases?
When the immune system senses some foreign invasion i.e. attack of bacteria or a virus, it immediately sends out white blood cells to fight the harmful pathogens.
In normal cases, the immune system has the ability to tell the difference between foreign and its own cells.
However, in an Autoimmune Disease, the immune system mistakes parts of your body like joints or skin as foreign and as a result releases proteins, antibodies that attack the healthy cells.
In some cases, autoimmune disease affects only one organ.
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Why does our Immune System Attack our own Body Cells and Tissues?
Until this date, the doctors do not know why this occurs. However, some people are likely to get affected rather than other people.
2014 studies suggest that women are more likely to get affected by autoimmune diseases than compared to men.
For example, Lupus affects more Afro-Americans and Hispanic people than Caucasians.
Autoimmune diseases also run in families. Like, Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus are heredity diseases.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Signs and symptoms of lupus might include:
Inflammation, swelling, damage to the joints, damage to kidneys, problems of blood and heart, high blood pressures, and problems related to lungs.
Many signs and symptoms may vary from person to person, they might be:
- May disappear suddenly
- Go up more the usual occasionally
The most common signs and symptoms may be:
High fever, body aches, fatigue, pain in joints, rashes, shortness of breath, Sjogren’s syndrome, memory loss, and Headaches
Sensitivity to The Sun
Too much sun can be harmful to anyone but many people who have lupus are likely to have photosensitivity.
People having this type of exposure are likely to develop such symptoms as rashes, pain in the joints, internal swelling, and fatigue.
It is important to protect yourself from sun damage and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Causes of Lupus
Doctors think that this disease might be a combination of underlying factors that may include:
Environmental Factors: Triggers like smoking, stress, and exposure to toxins might be the cause of lupus.
Genetics: Lupus is associated with more the 50 genes. If you have a family history of having this disease then this may put the person at a higher risk for exposure to the condition.
Hormones: Some studies suggest that an increased level of estrogen or any other hormones may contribute to it.
Medication: Certain medications like hydralazine, procainamide, and Quinidine can cause lupus as is known as Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus (DIL).
Studies also suggest that TNF blocked medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), IBD (Inflammatory bowel Disease) and Ankylosing Spondylitis can also cause this disease.
Vasculitis: This is the inflammation of blood vessels in your body. It can affect either part of or your complete circulatory system.
The antigens in the immune system can cause inflammation in the blood vessels of a person suffering from this disease.
Types of Lupus
There are different types of lupus. They are:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: SLE is one of the most familiar types. It is a systemic condition that means that it has an impact on the overall body. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe.
It is harsher than other types such as discoid lupus as it can affect any organ in the body.
Problems caused by this type can be inflammation in the skin, lungs, joints, kidneys, heart, or sometimes a combination of all of these.
Sometimes, there are no symptoms, and sometimes during the flare-up the disease is highly active and the symptoms then appear.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus: In this type, only the skin is affected. Sometimes a rash on the face or neck appears.
The affected areas might become thicker than usual and as a result scaring might occur.
Moreover, DLE is one type of lupus that does not affect any organ in the body. According to studies, around 10 percent of people with DLE are likely to go on developing SLE.
Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus: It is referred to when the skin develops lesions on it when exposed to the sun. they do not cause scarring,
Drug-induced Lupus: Certain drugs can cause symptoms of lupus. According to the Genetics Home Reference, 80 percent of the drugs cause lupus.
Common drugs associated with this type of lupus are:
This type of lupus goes away whenever the person stops taking these drugs.
Neonatal Lupus: Babies born to mother that have SLE are often healthy. However, if the woman has autoantibodies related to lupus, the baby with have neonatal lupus.
The mother may have SLE, Sjogren’s syndrome, or no disease symptoms at all.
Sjogren’s syndrome is also an autoimmune disease that often occurs with lupus. Its key symptoms are dry eyes and a dry mouth.
Babies born with this type of lupus may develop liver problems, skin rashes, and low blood counts. Around 10 percent of the babies might have anemia.
Complications Associated with Lupus
People with active lupus may feel ill in general. They may have a fever, weight loss, and fatigue.
As their immune system is not working properly, they may have other specific problems. It can affect the following body parts:
Skin: Skin problems are quite common with lupus same as hair loss and mouth sores.
If you have discoid lupus then you are likely to get large, red, and circular rashes that may cause scarring. Sunlight usually causes rashes and irritates the skin.
If you have subacute cutaneous erythematosus then if you go out in the sun it will be worse than before.
Joints: Arthritis is very common in people who have lupus. It may only be a problem for weeks or it may be permanent. However, it is not severe.
Kidneys: Half of the people with lupus are likely to get kidney problems.
They can be very dangerous for the person. They have other problems associated with them such as fatigue, arthritis, stiffness, etc.
Blood: People having lupus have fewer blood levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Diagnosis of Lupus
If you go to your doctor for a checkup, he/she will look for the key signs of the disease based on the symptoms and blood tests.
They will order certain blood tests like CBC, erythrocyte Sedimentation rate, CPR Test (C-reactive protein and anti-nuclear antibody test.
They might also certain image tests like X-Ray and Echocardiogram in case they suspect that this disease is affecting your lungs or heart.
In some cases, this disease can cause harm to your kidneys and the treatment may vary depending on the type of damage that occurs.
Moreover, it is necessary to determine the best treatment through biopsy of the Kidney.
You probably have lupus if you have any of the four symptoms at the same time or one after the other. They are:
A malar rash i.e. butterfly rash on your cheeks, discoid rash that causes scarring, Oral ulcers, sensitivity to the sun, kidney problems, inflammation, Arthritis, unusual blood work, Immunologic disorder, nervous system disorders, and blood disorders
Treatment of Lupus
As the disease changes itself over time it is important that you visit the doctor on regular basis.
Those who have mild symptoms do not need treatment while those who have serious conditions such as kidney problems may need strong medications.
Drugs for the treatment include:
Steroids: Steriods creams can be put up directly put on to the skin rashes. If lupus is affecting your internal organs, the steroids are taken in higher doses. But high doses are likely to have side effects.
Plaquenil: This helps control mild lupus and related problems, such as joint and skin diseases.
Cytoxan: Cytoxan is a chemotherapy drug that helps weaken the immune system. It is to treat severe forms of lupus.
Imuran: This is to treat serious cases of lupus. It is usually used to prevent organ transplants.
Cellcept: It works on our immune system. Many doctors use it to treat serious cases of lupus.
Rituxan: It treats lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. If your symptoms do not go away then you have been prescribed this medication.
Many people prefer to use alternative treatments to ease the symptoms.
However, there is no proof that any of them may be able to treat or cure the disease. Your doctor can also advise you to take herbal supplements however, consult your doctor before using them.
Some benefits of certain treatments other than medications are:
Vitamins and Supplements: Vitamin C, D, and antioxidants may help with the flare-ups and boost your health. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil may also be useful.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): This hormone might lessen the symptoms of a flare-up.
Mind-Body Therapy: Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy can ease the mind and health issues like depression.
Women with Lupus
This disease occurs more in women than men and is common between the ages of 15 and 44.
it can cause some health conditions to occur earlier than they normally would. These conditions are Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, and Kidney Disease.
Moreover, women that belong to a certain ethnic group are more likely to develop this disease like Afro-American women who risk having seizures and strokes while Hispanic and Latina women are at an increased risk of developing heart diseases.
Some certain lifestyle changes can ease the signs and symptoms of this disease and can help you improve the quality of life. Some of these are as follows:
Exercise: Low-impact exercise can help you keep your muscles and lower the chances of osteoporosis.
Rest: You need to take enough rest and follow periods of activity along with periods of rest.
Smoking: Avoid smoking as it can hurt blood flow and make lupus symptoms worse.
Sunlight: Avoid direct sunlight especially between 10 am and 2 pm. And use sunscreen when you are going out. Moreover, you need to take care of fever as it indicates infections.
For most types of Lupus, it is not curable and you cannot prevent it either. However, drug-induced lupus is as medications cause it.
Moreover, it is important that you consult your doctor about the risks and benefits of not taking these medications as they could result in life-threatening complications.
It is important to note that you need to stick to the treatment plan. Moreover, make sure to take your medications not only as an aid in preventing flare-ups but also to prevent damage to your internal organs.