So, what is lupus? Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system is malfunctioning. The most common form of this disease is known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) in which à patient’s immune system can no longer differentiate between their own cells and foreign ones. The implication of that is basically that the person’s immune system goes into overdrive and starts attacking itself.
How does it manifest? When the immune system goes into overdrive, it can attack essentially any part of the body – ranging from the brain to the heart to joints, skin, hair, and so on. Not only does it attack any part of the body, but it can also attack multiple areas of the body at à time. The wide range of target points that this disease can have is exactly what makes it so difficult to diagnose and so tough to treat as well.
The next thing to note is that this overworking of the immune system, as it is attacking the body itself, presents itself as inflammation in the body. Depending on the severity of the disease in different people, the symptoms of lupus can vary from skin rashes and joint pain all the way to swelling of the brain, liver failure, and advanced kidney disease. However, these things can only be determined on à case by case basis. This is also why some people refer to lupus as the “disease with à thousand faces”.
What are the Main Attributes of Lupus? First of all, for those who do not know much about lupus: No, it is not contagious. Second, Lupus is unlike cancer in that cancer is à disease that develops destructive, irregular tissues which surround and spread into the normal body tissues. Next, lupus is à chronic disease which means that it is constant, and in most cases lifelong (unlike maybe à couple of people in the world and in the history of this disease who have been “cured” of the disease or who were diagnosed with it but then suddenly stopped experiencing the symptoms). For the time being, there isn’t a cure.
Who is most likely get lupus? Being diagnosed with lupus is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 45. In fact, nine out of ten patients diagnosed with lupus are women. Moving on, it is possible that a person develops lupus due to heredity, or that someone with lupus has à relative with the same disease or perhaps another autoimmune disease. However, it is uncommon that someone would develop lupus only based on the fact that another family member has it. While the actual cause of lupus is still unknown, researchers have found that genetics do play à significant role in its’ development. There is also evidence which suggests that viruses, infections, and certain environmental factors can contribute to being diagnosed with the disease.
How does it feel to live with lupus (daily symptoms)? Moving on to the daily symptoms that are consistent with the majority of lupus patients, there are à few things that they go through on à daily basis. Here’s à list of à few of the main ones: excessive fatigue, rashes, headaches, hair loss, chronic pain, forgetfulness, sun sensitivity, and medicinal side effects. It is the combination of all of these issues which make it quite challenging for lupus patients to manage their day-to-day activities. However, there are periods of relapse and remission with this disease in which it is either more or less active. When it is more active, those periods are known as “flares”, and these are especially difficult for those with lupus because the related symptoms become much worse.
It is the ups and downs of the disease which make it so unpredictable, therefore it’s important to remember that if you know someone with lupus that you account for the changes they may have to make in their schedules because of all the issues associated with the disease they are dealing with.
What other types of lupus are there? There are three other kinds of lupus, in addition to SLE: Neonatal, Drug-induced, Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE), and Subacute Cutaneous Lupus (SCL).
Neonatal lupus is à relatively uncommon form of lupus which manifests in infants who are born to mothers with Lupus. The child acquires antibodies from their mother, and these antibodies mistakenly attack the infant’s own tissues and organs. Blood cell problems, skin rashes, and liver issues usually resolve themselves within six months of developing with this form of lupus. However, in some cases the patient’s heart tissues may have been impacted which can affect heartbeat regularity. This can often be solved with the use of a pacemaker.
Drug-induced lupus is à form of the disease that is caused by a reaction to a certain medication. It often manifests itself similarly to the systemic form of lupus, but most of the time the symptoms dissipate once the medicine is discontinued.
Both Discoid and Cutaneous lupus generally cause rashes or lesions on the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. The internal organs are usually not involved and the patient’s life is not at risk. However, there are cases in which one of these forms of lupus occur alongside its’ systemic counterpart. This is why it is important that if either one of these types of the disease are diagnosed that SLE also be tested to ensure that appropriate treatment is being provided for the patient.
What is there to be hopeful about when it comes to Lupus? For starters, this disease is treatable. There is à wide range of medication available at the moment that is used to keep lupus patients stable such that they can lead normal lives and be active to à certain extent (depending on how the disease manifests – joints, skin, etc.) Plus, lupus is becoming more easily diagnosed with all of the medical advancements that have been made in the past decade or so. This makes it faster for doctors to bring their patients into remission which is à positive when it comes to lupus.
Next, many patients with lupus have à form of the disease which is easily controllable and does not have significant impact on their daily lives. The combination of all of these factors contributes to the improvement in life expectancy of lupus patients as well as to the fact that it is rarely seen to be fatal in this day and age.