Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: How to Live With It
SLE, or systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as disseminated lupus erythematosus, lupus, lupus erythematosus, butterfly rash-SLE, and discoid lupus), is a kind of autoimmune disease. This happens when the immune system mistakenly treats the body as something foreign, which triggers the system to attack the body’s healthy tissue. This then affects all parts of the body. 90% of systemic lupus erythematosus cases affect women. Medlineplus, a U.S. National Library of Medicine, also stated that the disease usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 44. It is believed that SLE’s usual victims are African-Americans and Asians. Moreover, Caucasians are believed to have higher survival rates (94%–96%) compared to the Asian ethnicities (79%–92%). However, Koreans are said to have the highest survival rate, at 98%.
SLE is an autoimmune disease that tends to grow more and more dangerous as it progresses. Its exact cause is still unclear, but there are certain factors which are known to contribute to the development of SLE, and they are environment, genetics, and hormones. The symptoms of this disease are varied in nature, but often consist of fatigue, pain in the joints, sores in the mouth, anemia, chest pain, rashes on the skin, sensitivity to light, coughing up blood, and Raynaud syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to visit a doctor and get yourself checked to avoid any serious complications. A diagnosis of the disease involves carrying out a chest X-ray, CBC with differential, urine analysis, and serum creatinine and antinuclear antibody, or ANA. Currently, there are no accurate or effective treatment options available for SLE. The ones that are available are only used to provide relief from symptoms. Below are a few of the medicines that can help an individual to live with SLE after the diagnosis:
- Steroids: These are available in the form of pills or ointments and also act as anti-inflammatory medicines.
- Cytotoxic medicines: Just like many other lupus medications, cytotoxic medicines are known to help prevent inflammation as well as keep the immune system from trying to damage its own healthy tissues.
- Antimalarial medications: Use of these medicines can help to soothe painful joints as well as help cure any rashes.
- Immunosuppressive medicines: As the name implies, these medications are used in controlling the immune system and preventing it from attacking itself. If the SLE in an individual becomes severe, doctors would most likely prescribe this type of medication.
- NSAIDs: Use of these medications are known to provide help in reducing pain, swelling, and fever caused by SLE. One can make use of this medicine even if the doctor has not prescribed it, but it is always better to ask when and how to take the medication to avoid any unwanted interactions or side effects. If these medicines are not taken in the appropriate form, they can lead to kidney problems as well as severe cases of stomach bleeding.
There is no harm in asking your doctor about guidelines as to when and how to take these medicines. This way, it will be easier for you to organize and prepare a schedule for them. This instruction is mostly prescribed for pregnant women, since the SLE antibodies can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage. You can also try other home remedies apart from the usual medications.
To prevent the symptoms from flaring up, make sure you get proper rest throughout the day; try to protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen or wear full clothing; for those in pain or who have swelling, use a heating pad; stay away from individuals who are unwell; and give proper attention to any flare-ups to avoid complications from the disease.