Lupus: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – SLE or lupus for short – is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects major parts of the body. That includes the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, and the entire nervous system. Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. The condition is caused by a severely reactive immune system. The immune system will attack its own tissues.

Unfortunately, lupus has no known cure. This is a lifelong condition that affects women between 18 to 40 years old. However, lupus can affect older men as well. 1 in 10,000 men is affected by the condition while 1 in 250 women of African descent is afflicted with this condition.

Back in the day, lupus was only diagnosed when it was in its advanced stages. And so survival rate was very slim. But medical advances made early detection possible. These days, the survival rate of lupus is close to 90%. Because lupus is incurable, treatments are aimed at managing the symptoms.

Signs, Symptoms and Complications of Lupus

The signs and symptoms of lupus will flare-up once in a while. At some point, the symptoms will go away completely for a period of time. This period is called remission. The most common signs and symptoms of lupus include joint pains that come and go, rashes, rapid weight loss and chest pain.

Fever, breathing problems, sensitivity to sunlight and unexplained fatigue could also point to the disease. Headaches, disorientation or uncontrollable emotions are also considered as lupus symptoms.

Lupus becomes dangerous when it start affecting major organs like the kidneys and the central nervous system. Complications will start a few years after diagnosing the disease. Common health complications associated with lupus include kidney failure, hardening of the arteries or diabetes.

Causes of Lupus

Lupus has no known cause. But some experts believe the alternations in the immune system is causing it to react by attacking the body. The immune system is the body’s line of defense against viruses, fungus, and bacteria. An overactive immune system will fail to recognize its own “self” and attack. This phenomenon is referred medically as “autoimmunity.”

Several factors could increase the risk of developing this disease. These factors include genetic makeup, environmental factors, and infections. Stress, certain illness, some drugs – and even pregnancy – may trigger lupus. What experts do know is that lupus seems to affect women more than men. And this suggests that lupus could be linked to estrogen.

Treating and Preventing Lupus

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, below are the most common medications for lupus:

Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs

Prescription and over the counter NSAIDs help ease inflammation and other symptoms associated with lupus.

Hydroxychloroquine

This drug is often used in conjunction with other medication to control lupus symptoms.

Oral Corticosteroids

This is the main treatment for lupus. It prevents inflammation and other symptoms related to lupus.

Immunosuppressive Agents

Immunosuppressive drugs include cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, and azathioprine. These medications will suppress a reactive immune system. However, immunosuppressive drugs are only reserved when major organs are affected by the disease.

Although these medications can save lives, they cause serious side effects. As such, talk to your doctor and discuss the right medication for your needs.


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