What is Lupus

 What is Lupus

What is Lupus

Lupus is a chronic systemic rheumatic disease that can affect any part of your body including joints and muscles, and can damage the skin, kidney, lung and almost all organs.

One feature of this disease is that it is very heterogeneous. It is difficult to find two patients with the same symptoms and the same patterns of sickness. This  often complicates  it being diagnosed.

The disease develops in stages and can also go into remission.  There are very severe cases of lupus and some not so serious that are limited to only effecting the skin.

In general, when a person is diagnosed with lupus the immune system usually attacks the body’s organs causing inflammation and tissue damage. In lupus, the immune system produces antibodies against the body’s healthy cells and tissues. These antibodies, called autoantibodies, contribute to the inflammation of various parts of the body and can cause damage to organs and tissues.

This disease mainly affects women around the time of life in which she is fertile (20 to 40 years). They have also reported cases in children and the elderly.

According to Lupus.org, Lupus affects about 1.5 million people in the United States. In recent years it has detected an increase in the frequency and experts attribute this to increased patient survival, as well as a better understanding of the disease and laboratory techniques that allow milder cases to be detected earlier.

Causes

The cause of lupus erythematosus remains unknown. However, being an autoimmune disease there are different factors  that can influence and cause lupus. The best known is the alteration in the immune system, which among other things is responsible for defending the body against infection.

Other causes include being a genetic match. It was found that, if one twin siblings have the disease, lupus tends to appear more frequently in the other sibling. However, still unknown which specific genes are responsible for this disease.

Environmental factors may also affect this disease. For example, exposure to sunlight may also be a factor enhancer. In fact, many people with lupus are very sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Some medications can also trigger an outbreak of this disease.

Also, hormones , specifically the female hormone estrogen, may be involved in the disease. In fact, it was observed that birth control pills may accelerate its onset in genetically predisposed women. Thus, outbreaks of lupus is more common in women in a childbearing state.

SYMPTOMS

Lupus is a multi-system disease affecting several organs.

General symptoms: Fatigue, unexplained weight loss, prolonged fever not due to any infections and changes in temperature.

Fever is an important symptom that can be caused by the disease itself or infection coexisting with lupus. It is essential to determine the source to treat properly.

We can group the symptoms:

Muscle and joint symptoms

They are among the most common clinical manifestations. 90 percent of lupus patients have pain and swelling in the joints ( arthritis ) in the hands, wrists, elbows, knees and feet. You may also display the morning joint stiffness. Arthritis can be migratory or episodic.

These symptoms usually occur early in the disease while it is still evolving.

Dermatological symptoms

The most common known lesion is called “erythema butterfly”, which is redness and rash on the face, cheeks and nose. These symptoms occur in 80 percent of patients and many worsen with sun exposure.

You will also have frequent hair loss when the disease is active. Furthermore, lupus patients are hypersensitive to ultraviolet rays. If exposed unprotected disease may be reactivated.

Cardiac and pulmonary symptoms

Approximately 25 percent of patients may suffer heart-related diseases. This is because the coating layer of the heart (pericardium) is inflamed by the disease. This swelling also occurs in the membranes lining the lungs (pleura), although here the incidence rises to 50 percent of cases.. pericarditis and pleuritis Both have similar symptoms. chest pain and fever. At other times, lupus affects the lungs or heart valves causing cardio respiratory failure.

kidney Symptoms

Lupus affects both kidneys at the same time. The most common symptom is inflammation (nephritis), which sometimes prevents the kidney from adequately removing waste from the body and causing it to accumulate in the blood. Because of this inflammation, often the kidney is unable to assimilate and retain proteins . This leads to swelling of the face and legs. These conditions can occur in up to 45 percent of patients.

Neurological symptoms

These are the most varied and serious. Patients with lupus may have psychiatric disorders, headache ,  states of confusion, involvement in peripheral nerves and seizures, among others.

It is manifested by headaches, depression or hyperactivity situations. They are very common manifestations in the general population and may be due to brain inflammation. It is also possible that depression is triggered by the disease.

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Lupus can cause vomiting, diarrhea , pancreatitis, hepatic failure, peritonitis, etc.

Hematological symptoms

 lupus can cause a decrease in the number of all types of blood cells. Leukopenia, decreased white blood cells, can be very frequent. Anemia also appears regularly in the development of the disease.

Types

There are two types of lupus:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE): chronic, relapsing disease characterized by well defined on the skin red spots round edges.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): autoimmune disease with episodes of inflammation in joints, tendons and other connective tissues and organs.

Diagnosis

Like other rheumatic diseases, lupus has no complementary diagnostic test that is final and can determine the disease. The diagnosis, therefore, is primarily based on the symptoms, clinical findings and laboratory tests.

Treatments

Treatment of the disease is not subject to a single therapy. It is very different depending on the organ it affects. Corticosteroids are considered the basic treatment since everyone affected at one time or another will need it.

In smaller cases such as arthritis, or skin manifestations pleuropericarditis Dr’s recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).

If the lungs, heart, central nervous system or kidney are damaged treatment will be much more aggressive and is based on very high-dose corticosteroids and immunosuppressive treatments..

If the disease has symptoms such as fever, fatigue or skin disorders, the treatment will be less aggressive and with topical corticosteroids and / or malaria.

Patients with Lupus must eat healthy and balanced meals.

On the other hand, when the disease affects the kidney and especially when the patients have  high blood pressure it is not advisable to consume salty or spicy foods.

Depending on the individual characteristics, the lupus patients are often recommend to use protection from extreme sun exposure, especially in those who have skin problems, take precautions against infections, and keep abreast of specific vaccinations and special care during pregnancy.

  • Elizabeth Keck

    I have always heard of lupus but never truly understood the disease. Glad to have a thorough explanation, because I know a few people who have it and I really didn’t know what they were going through.

  • www.shopgirlanonymous.com

    My husband has lupus, as well as heart disease. They used to cancel each other out, but since our most recent move to the TN valley they are keeping the other from getting proper treatment. Treatment for one could prove fatal from the other. 🙁 We are relocating, hoping the drop in allergens will help regain his balance. As far as balanced meals, I can’t get him to stop night munching. Sometimes he does salads…but hot cheetos frequent his nightly dining choices. :/

    Lots of great information here for those who are not as familiar.