Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which someone’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs. It can affect the skin, heart, lungs, blood vessels, joints, blood cells, brain, kidneys, and many other parts of the body.
There are different types of lupus and it can cause a very wide range of symptoms. The most common type is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Discoid lupus mainly causes long-lasting rashes. Neonatal lupus can affect newborns, but it is rare
The many possible symptoms of lupus include joint pain, arthritis, fatigue, fever, sores, dry eyes, shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, swollen legs, and hair loss. Another symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face covering the cheeks and crossing the bridge of the nose.
The symptoms can flare up and wane unpredictably. Lupus can cause inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to kidney damage or failure. Blood cell counts might drop, and blood clots may form due to elevated levels of antiphospholipid antibodies. People with SLE sometimes suffer from pleurisy, an inflammation of tissue around the lungs. Approximately half of the people who develop lupus also experience high blood pressure.
The cause of lupus is unknown, but several risk factors and triggers have been determined.
- Sunlight. Sun exposure is a major trigger in people who are susceptible to lupus. Patients should protect themselves with sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing.
- Infections. Certain infections may put one at an increased risk for lupus, including infections from the Epstein Barr virus and the virus that causes shingles.
- Medications. Certain drugs, including antibiotics, anti-seizure medications, and blood pressure medications, can trigger what’s called drug-induced lupus. DIL usually goes away when the person stops taking the medicine.
- Sex, age and race. Women of childbearing age, particularly African-American women, are at higher risk. About 90% of the people diagnosed with lupus are women ages 15 to 44. Lupus also is more common in people of Asian or Hispanic descent
Diagnosis and treatment options
It is difficult to diagnose lupus because the symptoms are so varied and changeable. No specific test exists for lupus. A physical exam and medical history review will be done. Biopsies of skin and kidney tissue might be taken. A number of blood and urine tests may be done, as well as imaging tests to check on internal organs and tissues.
Treatment options include:
- Lifestyle choices. Getting plenty of rest, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding sunlight overexposure can help.
- NSAIDS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, can help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Antimalarial drugs. Antimalarial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, reduce inflammation and suppress overactive immune systems.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids such as prednisone reduce inflammation and pain. They can also help prevent organ damage.
- Immunosuppressants. These drugs, such as azathioprine and mycophenolate, are used to suppress an overactive immune system.
- Biologics. Drugs such as rituximab and belimumab are designed to target and block certain proteins that cause inflammation. They are typically used to treat severe cases
Dealing With Lupus
The Florida Medical Clinic Department of Rheumatology is dedicated to providing you with consultative, diagnostic, and therapeutic services. Our specialists can do the testing needed to determine whether you have lupus. Contact us today to make an appointment.
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