Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints, skin and other organs in the body. It is a systemic disease, meaning it affects the whole body.
It can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain, swelling, fever, rashes and hair loss.
The most common type is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), which affects the entire body and can cause serious complications. Other types include Drug-Induced Lupus, Discoid Lupus and Neonatal Lupus.
Treatment involves medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants and antimalarials.
While there is no cure for lupus, living a healthy lifestyle and managing the condition through medications can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Types of Lupus
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
It is the most common form of lupus, affecting both men and women of all ages. Symptoms of SLE include skin rashes, fatigue, joint pain and fever. It can also cause organ damage, including heart, kidney and lung problems.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
A type of lupus that affects the skin. It is characterised by red, scaly patches on the face or other areas of the body. These patches can become inflamed or infected, if not treated in time.
A form of lupus caused by certain medications, such as antibiotics or anticonvulsants.
It is a rare disorder that affects newborns. It is caused by antibodies from the mother’s bloodstream crossing the placenta and attacking the baby’s organs. Symptoms of neonatal lupus can vary from mild to severe, and can include skin rash, liver problems, anemia, jaundice and autoimmune congenital heart block (CHB). In some cases, the disorder can cause stillbirth or death shortly after birth.
While lupus symptoms can vary from person to person, some of the most common signs include:
Other potential symptoms include:
People with lupus may also experience:
Please remember, it is important to see your doctor for early diagnosis and treatment which can help reduce the severity of these symptoms.
The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but there are a few factors that are thought to be involved in its development.
Genetics: Some forms of lupus are known to have a genetic component, with certain genes increasing a person’s risk of developing the condition.
Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental triggers, such as sunlight, certain drugs and certain chemicals, may increase the risk of developing the condition.
Hormones: Fluctuations in hormones, such as those related to menopause, can trigger lupus flares. It can also flare up during pregnancy, but most of these flares may not be life-threatening and can be treated with steroids.
Immunological Factors: Some forms of lupus may be caused by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the body.
Gender: Women tend to contract the disease more than men.
Diagnosis can be difficult since there are many different types of lupus and it often mimics other illnesses.
However, some of the common signs and symptoms to look for include joint pain, fatigue, skin rashes, hair loss and sensitivity to sunlight.
Common lab tests used in diagnosing lupus include:
In some cases, imaging tests like an MRI or CT Scan or Echocardiogram may also be necessary.
It is important to note that there is no single test that can definitively diagnose the disease. Rather, a combination of tests and a thorough evaluation of symptoms are necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
The most common treatment is medication, which can help reduce inflammation and prevent flares.
Corticosteroids like prednisolone may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
For those with severe cases of lupus, other medications such as hydroxychloroquine or immunosuppressants may be prescribed.
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes such as avoiding the sun and getting enough rest can help reduce symptoms.
Other treatments such as physical & massage therapy and acupuncture may also be beneficial.
Please note that the treatment as well as medical use of drugs mentioned here must be at the sole discretion of your doctor, and under no circumstances these can be used to self-medicate.
Self-medication is both harmful and extremely dangerous to your health.
Can Lupus be Prevented?
No, it can’t be prevented. But it can be managed.
However, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
Limit your exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds. People with lupus are especially sensitive to UV rays, so it’s important to wear sunblock and protective clothing when outside.
You should also avoid smoking, which can increase your risk of developing lupus.
You should make sure to get regular check-ups with your doctor and be aware of any changes in your health that could be signs of lupus.
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Sources: Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today, Cleveland Clinic, Medline Plus (1, 2), WebMd, American College of Rheumatology, CDC, Healthline (1, 2), NHS, NIH, Prevention, HSS, NYU Langone Health, Johns Hopkins Lupus Centre, HRA.
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