Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory disease which has been around forever. However, the condition was identified and named only in 1851, by a French doctor―Pierre Cazenave. The most visible sign of this disease is the presence of scaly red rashes on the surface of the skin. The word 'Lupus' is the Latin word for wolf, and is appropriate due to the butterfly-shaped rashes caused by this condition which resemble the marks of a wolf.
What is Lupus?
Our immune system has been designed to protect us from the attacks of foreign substances. For people suffering from Lupus, the immune system malfunctions and begins to destroy healthy body cells and tissues. The immune system is unable to differentiate between foreign bodies and body tissues, thus destroys the body's own tissues and organs. The result of this autoimmune disease is the inflammation of attacked tissues and organs. Lupus can damage different parts of the body such as the joints, heart, skin, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, and even the brain. If the inflammation is not treated, it can lead to severe damage of vital organs and even death.
Types of Lupus
The different types of Lupus are:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: This type affects most parts of the body and is the most common and dangerous type found today.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus: This type can be characterized by permanent skin rashes on the face, ears, chest, and arms. It is not dangerous to humans and is far milder than the type mentioned above.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: This is also a mild variety, wherein skin sores are developed on those parts of the body that have been exposed to sunlight (especially arms and upper body).
- Drug-induced lupus: This variety can be caused after taking prescription medicines.
- Neonatal lupus: This is a rare type that mostly affects newborns.
How and Who gets Lupus?
Lupus cannot be associated to a particular age or gender. However, women are the ones commonly affected as compared to men. Women of Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and Native American descent are known to be at a higher risk as compared to Caucasian women. Since Lupus is found to affect a greater number of women, scientists believe that it has some connection to female hormones like estrogen. The saddest part about this disease is that nobody knows what causes it. It is believed that a combination of several factors triggers it. However, the relieving fact is that lupus is not contagious. It does not pass from one individual to another, nor is it associated to cancer or AIDS. Those with a family history of lupus are 5% more likely to develop the disease as compared to the others.
The symptoms vary from person to person and type to type. However, some of the commonly observed symptoms are:
- Muscle pain, exhaustion, and fatigue
- Swollen glands, legs, and swelling around the eyes and joints
- Purple coloration of the fingers and toes
- Red rashes across the face, ears, and arms
- Loss of hair
- Persistent fever without any cause
- Sensitivity when exposed to the sun
- Ulcers in the mouth and nose
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is not easy to diagnose lupus. After its onset, it may actually take the doctor months or even years to diagnose it. The doctor may conduct blood tests, skin and kidney biopsy, etc., to diagnose this disease. There is no cure for this disease, however, proper treatment will help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
The different medicines that a doctor recommends to treat this disease are as follows:
Immunosuppressive medication: Such medication reduce the normal immune response of the human body. They are prescribed when the disease is seen to affect organs like the kidney.
Corticosteroids: These are prescribed to reduce the inflammation occurring in different organs. The dosage depends on the severity.
Antimalarial drugs: Antimalarial drugs are used to counter the inflammation of the organs, skin rashes, and joints issues. There is no relation between malaria and lupus, yet these antimalarial drugs prove effective. Why and how is still unknown.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen help reduce joint and tissue inflammation.
Patients suffering from lupus must learn to mentally cope with this disease. They must prevent themselves from getting depressed, and should keep themselves occupied in different activities. Exercising is one good way of coping with stress. Lupus patients require all the mental and emotional support they can get from family and friends.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.