Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s healthy cells, tissues, and organs. The inflammation can damage the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, and blood vessels.
Normally, the body’s immune system produces antibodies. These antibodies protect and fight against antigens like bacteria and viruses. But with lupus, the immune system is unable to differentiate the normal cells from the bad ones. As a result, the antibodies destroy not only the antigens but the healthy cells as well.
There are several types of lupus:
- erythematosus – the most common type
- discoid lupus erythematosus
- subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus
- drug induced lupus
- neonatal lupus
This condition can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms are similar to other conditions. However, the most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash, which resembles the wings of a butterfly across the cheeks. Generally, people with lupus experience relapse and remission.
The exact cause of lupus is still unknown. Researchers linked lupus to genetic predisposition as well as external factors, such as extreme stress, exposure to ultraviolet light, medications, smoking, and infections. Since lupus can be triggered by medications, such as anti-seizure blood pressure medications and antibiotics, people with drug induced lupus manages their symptoms by not taking the medication.
Until now, there’s no cure for lupus. Treatments focus on controlling and managing symptoms. Treatment programs for lupus include corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and lifestyle changes.
Lupus Signs and Symptoms
A butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks is the most visible sign of lupus. It could develop suddenly or it could appear after sunlight exposure. About 50% of people with lupus have a butterfly rash.
A low grade fever for no reason is one of the early signs of lupus. Low grade fever could be a sign of infection, inflammation or a forthcoming flare up. In some cases, the unexplained fever is on and off.
Among the early signs of lupus is hair thinning. This is due to the inflammation of the scalp and skin. Lupus causes the hair to be brittle and look a bit ragged. Thinning of the hair can also be seen on eyebrows, eyelashes, beard and other body hair.
Lupus can cause inflammation to the kidneys. This condition is called nephritis. When the kidneys are inflamed, the kidneys will have a hard time filtering the toxins and wastes of the body. The symptoms of nephritis are blood in urine, pain in your side, darker urine, high blood pressure, swelling of the legs and feet and frequent urination at night. An untreated nephritis caused by lupus can progress into end stage renal disease (ESRD).
Dry Eyes and Dry Mouth
Dry eyes and dry mouth are also seen in people with lupus. That’s because some people could develop Sjogren’s syndrome. Also an autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome causes the lacrimal and salivary glands to malfunction. Dryness of the vagina may also be experienced by some women.
Joint Pain and Swelling
The inflammation brought about by lupus causes pain, swelling and stiffness of joints.
Many people with lupus are sensitive to light, be it the sun or an artificial lighting. Other symptoms include skin discoloration, chest pain, muscle pain, osteoporosis and depression. However, not everyone with lupus gets every symptom.
Most people diagnosed with lupus can live normally. Through the years, the treatments for lupus have improved that’s why people with lupus live longer.