What is lupus?
Also called :- SLE, systemic lupus erythematosus
The term “lupus” includes a number of conditions, though it usually refers to “systemic lupus erythematosus,” a condition in which the immune system appears to react against tissues throughout the body. This may lead to inflammation in the skin, joints, heart and lungs, kidneys, brain, and other parts of the body. The cause is unknown and treatment usually involves suppressing the immune system.
The symptoms of lupus occur in times of flare-ups. Between flare-ups, people usually experience times of remission, when there are few or no symptoms.
Lupus has a wide range of symptoms:-
- muscle and joint pain
- chest pain when breathing deeply
- sensitivity to sunlight
- mouth ulcers
- memory problems
- Molar rash, a red, butterfly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
- unusual hair loss
- pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress, known as Raynaud’s disease
As an autoimmune disease, lupus occurs when your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your body. It’s likely that lupus results from a combination of your genetics and your environment.
It appears that people with an inherited predisposition for lupus may develop the disease when they come into contact with something in the environment that can trigger lupus. The cause of lupus in most cases, however, is unknown. Some potential triggers include:
- Sunlight. Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people.
- Infections. Having an infection can initiate lupus or cause a relapse in some people.
- Medications. Lupus can be triggered by certain types of blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications and antibiotics. People who have drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medication. Rarely, symptoms may persist even after the drug is stopped.
Factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:
- Your sex. Lupus is more common in women.
- Age. Although lupus affects people of all ages, it’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Race. Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.
Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many areas of your body, including your:
- Kidneys. Lupus can cause serious kidney damage, and kidney failure is one of the leading causes of death among people with lupus.
- Brain and central nervous system. If your brain is affected by lupus, you may experience headaches, dizziness, behavior changes, vision problems, and even strokes or seizures. Many people with lupus experience memory problems and may have difficulty expressing their thoughts.
- Blood and blood vessels. Lupus may lead to blood problems, including a reduced number of healthy red blood cells (anemia) and an increased risk of bleeding or blood clotting. It can also cause inflammation of the blood vessels.
- Lungs. Having lupus increases your chances of developing an inflammation of the chest cavity lining, which can make breathing painful. Bleeding into lungs and pneumonia also are possible.
- Heart. Lupus can cause inflammation of your heart muscle, your arteries or heart membrane. The risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks increases greatly as well.
Lupus treatment will depend on several things, including your age, your overall health, your medical history, which part of your body is affected, and how severe your case is.
Some people with mild cases don’t need treatment. Those who have more serious symptoms such as kidney problems may need strong medications. Drugs that treat lupus include:-
- Steroids-You can put steroid creams directly on rashes. They’re usually safe and effective, especially for mild rashes. Low doses of steroid creams or pills can ease mild or moderate signs of lupus. You can also take steroids in higher doses if lupus is affecting your internal organs. But high doses also are most likely to have side effects.
- Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) – This medicine helps control mild lupus-related problems, such as skin and joint disease. It can also prevent symptom flares.
- Cutoxan (cyclophosphamide)- This chemotherapy drug also weakens your immune system. It treats severe forms of lupus, such as those affecting your kidneys or brain.
- Imuran (azathioprine)- This treats serious symptoms of lupus. It was originally used to prevent rejection after an organ transplant.
- Rheumatrex(methotrexate)- Another chemotherapy drug that weakens your immune system. More doctors are using it for skin disease, arthritis, and other conditions that don’t get better with medications such as hydroxychloroquine or low doses of the steroid prednisone.
- Benlysta (belimumab)-This drug is a biologic, which means it mimics natural proteins. It weakens your immune system by targeting a protein that may contribute to lupus.
- CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil)-More doctors are using this medication to treat serious lupus symptoms, especially in people who have taken Cytoxan. It works on your immune system.
- Rituxan (Rituximab)- A biologic that treats lyphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. You might take it if you have serious symptoms that don’t go away with other treatments.
Some benefits with certain treatments, including:-
- Vitamins and supplements. Vitamins C and D and antioxidants may help with symptoms and boost your overall health. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil also might be useful.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This hormone may lessen symptom flare-ups but can also have mild side effects like acne or hair growth.
- Acupuncture. Small studies show that acupuncture can lessen pain and fatigue.
- Mind-body therapy. Meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy could ease pain as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety.