Lupus is a medical condition that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs. This type of Lupus is an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). People generally notice symptoms between the ages of 15 and 44.
It can affect different organ systems throughout your body and causes inflammation. Many people experience high blood pressure and it can damage blood vessels.
It can also be difficult to diagnose because Lupus affects many parts of the body. Some forms of Lupus have telltale signs but moist are subtle. Most people experience it mildly but there is currently no cure for Lupus.
Men and women with lupus may have a higher risk of developing other conditions as the joint pain and fatigue make them less physically active. Appropriate treatment can greatly improve one’s quality of life.
Because this disease can affect many different parts of the body, and have different symptoms, it is often difficult to detect. And most people with this disease don’t have all the symptoms. In addition, symptoms may come and go and they can change over time as well.
The most common symptoms of Lupus disease are:
- Extreme fatigue
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Sensitivity to sunlight or fluorescent light
- Chest pain when breathing deeply
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
- Rashes, including a butterfly rash on the face
- Skin lesions
- Sores in the mouse or nose
The inflammation caused by Lupus can also cause complications with major body organs like the kidneys, blood and lungs.
When to see a doctor?
You should see a healthcare practitioner when you experience these common symptoms. Seek help immediately when you develop an unexplained rash, ongoing fever, persistent aching and/ or fatigue.
Causes of Lupus
In most cases, the cause of Lupus disease is still unknown. However, when a family member had it, it could be possible that one is at a slightly higher risk than those who have no history of it in the family at all. Experts say that it can be a combination of underlying factors too.
It can be one or more of the following:
- Environment: Smoking, stress, and exposure to toxins
- Genetics: Although they have not identified a specific gene that causes lupus, it has been known to pass down to offspring. twins, in particular, have a high rate of developing this.
- Hormones: Abnormal hormone levels (e.g. increased estrogen levels)
- Infections: Like the cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr
- Medications: Long-term use of 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.
Lupus may interact with other conditions which may exacerbate symptoms. If you have any of these conditions or risk factors, inform your doctor to determine an appropriate treatment strategy.
- Lupus has a small risk of developing cancer
- You may have lower bone density which may make you more susceptible to microfractures or even breaks.
- Treatments may weaken your immune system. Lupus itself may make you more susceptible to infection.
- Lupus may increase your blood pressure during pregnancy making miscarriage more likely. If possible, avoid getting pregnant and use birth control methods (such as condoms) until you have manageable Lupus symptoms for at least 6 months.
If you are already pregnant or plan to become pregnant, seek your doctor’s advice to help reduce the risk to an unborn baby.
Medications are prescribed to help you manage your symptoms and prevent lupus flares. Your doctor will have to check your symptoms closely and their severity to recommend the right treatments.
In addition to Lupus medication, your doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes such as:
- Avoiding excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light
- Eating a healthy diet
- Taking supplements that may help to reduce symptoms (vitamin D, calcium, and fish oil)
- Getting regular exercise
- Quitting smoking (if you smoke)
While Lupus may make life difficult, it can be managed with proper treatment. You should be able to live a full and long life. Alway be honest and communicate with your doctor to make sure that your treatment plan works with your lifestyle and properly manages your symptoms. If you find that your symptoms do not improve, or even grow worse, call your doctor to ensure that you are getting the best possible care.