Lupus is an aggressive autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system actually attacks your own tissues and organs. The result is inflammation that may affect many different body systems- including your joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain.
Lupus can be very difficult to diagnose because the key signs and symptoms can mimic those experienced with other ailments. One of the most distinctive signs of lupus- a facial rash resembling a butterfly- occurs in some cases but not every diagnosed lupus case.
The exact signs and lupus symptoms that you experience will vary greatly and depend on which system of the body is being predominantly affected by the disease.
The most commonly seen lupus symptoms include:
- Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- A butterfly shaped rash that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or periods of high (also known as Raynaud’s)
- Skin lesions that worsen with sun exposure
- Shortness of breath
- Recurring headaches
- Memory loss
- Dry eyes
- Chest pain
- Appetite loss
In most patients, no two cases of lupus will look exactly alike. Many lupus symptoms can come on suddenly or develop slowly over time. Severity may vary from patient to patient and can be temporary or permanent. Most individuals who are diagnosed with lupus have a mild form of the disease that is characterized by chronic episodes, also known as flares. Flares occur when signs and symptoms worsen for a short period of time and then improve or disappear for a period of time.
If you are experiencing any lupus symptoms it is important to seek treatment immediately. Remember, your health and wellness should always come first.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a widely discussed disease that is fairly common in the US. Despite this, many individuals confuse lupus with other ailments or misunderstand the disease completely.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage the skin, joints and/or organs. “Chronic” implies that the signs and symptoms of the disease will last longer than six weeks or even for several years. Your particular lupus diagnosis will vary based on which areas of the body are affected and the severity of your symptoms.
In lupus, the immune system is not working properly or as it is intended. Given that the immune system is the part of the body that works to fight off viruses, bacteria, and germs, it is a highly important aspect of maintaining proper health. In a normal individual, the immune system produces proteins called “antibodies.” They protect the body from foreign invaders and keep you feeling strong and healthy.
In an autoimmune disease such as lupus, the body’s immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders such as bacteria and the body’s normal healthy tissues. As a result, the body creates antibodies that effectively attack and destroy healthy tissue. When this occurs, a patient will experience severe inflammation, pain, and damage to several parts of the body.
The most commonly diagnosed type of lupus is known as Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE). This form of lupus affects many different types of the body but is receptive to treatment.
Other common types of lupus include:
-Cutaneous lupus, which can cause a rash or lesions on the skin, especially when exposed to sunlight.
-Drug induced lupus, which is caused by an overt overreaction to medications.
-Neonatal lupus, which occurs when an infant acquires antibodies from a mother with SLE.
Though common, lupus is a very serious disease that can affect people from all walks of life. Lupus symptoms are most often diagnosed in women between the ages of 15 and 44, though men are susceptible as well. While the cause is not known, lupus is identified as an autoimmune disorder. There is currently no known cure for lupus, though many effective treatment options are currently available on the market.
What causes Lupus?
Though researchers have been making great strides in identifying key factors in developing lupus, the exact reason for the autoimmunity that causes lupus is not yet known. The current theory is that inherited genes, viruses, certain medications, and ultraviolet light, may play some role in developing lupus symptoms.
Lupus is not an infectious disease and can not be contracted through person to person contact. In other words- lupus is not contagious and being around someone with lupus will not cause lupus in you.
Some in the medical community believe that genetic factors may play the greatest role in autoimmune diseases. There have been patterns detected which show that individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases such as lupus, thyroid disorder, and rheumatoid arthritis, tend to have relatives who also live with or experience symptoms of these diseases.
In autoimmune diseases, it is possible for disease overlap to occur in individuals. This means that some people with lupus may also experience rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma. Genetic factors are believed to be the reason for these overlaps.
Other researchers believe that lupus is exacerbated or brought on by external factors such as exposure to viruses or ultraviolet light. This is because lupus symptoms can often become aggravated by exposure to the sun. Though the jury is still out on the role of ultraviolet light in lupus it is well known that exposure can worsen or even bring on lupus symptoms.
It is also a well known fact in the medical community that women suffering from systemic lupus will most often experience a worsening of their symptoms just before their menstrual periods. This has lead some researchers to argue that female hormones may play a significant role in why people develop lupus. Given that more women develop lupus than their male counterparts, the hormonal relationship is being studied thoroughly by scientists.
If you are experiencing any lupus symptoms, consult with a physician as soon as you can. Lupus symptoms can interfere with your overall quality of life and even make simple daily motions painful or difficult. Though there is no cure for lupus, treatments are available to help ease symptoms and increase overall wellness.