What is lupus? Lupus is a condition, which causes the immune system to identify the body’s cells as abnormal and attack them. Also, it causes the body to produce substances, which affect blood vessels, joints, tissues, and many vital organs, such as heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.
Who is more likely to develop lupus?
Nine out of every ten patients are women. Some estimates suggest that women between 15 and 45 years (the most reproductive period) old are more likely to develop lupus. It is still uncertain what causes it. However, some studies suggest that it can be triggered by an infection or something that affects the immune system and causes it to break down. This susceptibility can be genetic, so those who have relatives diagnosed with lupus are more likely to develop it. Other factors, which may affect the immune system, include poor environmental conditions, exposure to drugs, sunburns, pregnancy, birth, abortion, etc. Most lupus patients have a history of allergies.
How does it start?
First lupus symptoms begin to occur between 15 and 25 years old. Some patients show mild signs or no signs at all. Others develop severe complications, which require intensive care.
Manifestations are individual, because the disease can affect any part of the body. Inflammation is the most common sign. What’s really bad about the disease is that its early symptoms are similar to many other diseases. Therefore, it may take quite a lengthy examination to diagnose it. These symptoms include:
Butterfly rash affects 50% of patients. It appears on the bridge of the nose and expands further to cheeks. The reddening may get worse due to exposure to sunlight, frost, stress, and agitation.
Persistent fatigue is a common symptom of lupus, and it can occur around afternoon. Patients often oversleep during the day and have difficulty sleeping at night.
Many patients deal with the thinning of hair and hair loss. It happens due to inflammation of the scalp. Hair that grows in other part of the body may also be affected.
Particularly, persistent low-grade fever (37-38°C) indicates that something is definitely wrong.
Swollen joints and muscle pain are common signs of systemic lupus.
If you discover these signs in you and they last longer than a month, it is advisable to see a doctor.
As the condition progresses, more serious symptoms occur. Inflammation can affect the mucous lining of any organ: lungs (pleuritis), abdominal organs (peritonitis), renal tissue (nephritis), oral mucosa (stomatitis), etc. Because the disease affects vital organs, it can be very dangerous.
Many patients develop antiphospholipid antibody syndrome – a condition, which causes the body to produce antibodies, which attack phospholipids. Because phospholipids are integral to all tissues, the resulting damage can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications.
How it is diagnosed
Because signs are varied, diagnosing lupus is a challenge. It takes a combination of checks and tests, not just one, to determine the cause of the symptoms: blood tests (complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, etc.), urine tests, comparative analyses, antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. It should be noted that positive ANA test is not necessarily a sign of lupus, so it requires additional specific testing.
Lupus is a chronic disease, which requires non-stop care and monitoring by a therapist and/or rheumatologist. Initially, glucocorticoid therapy is applied. If symptoms get too severe, a doctor may prescribe an immunosuppresive drug. Because these drugs often cause side effects, it is absolutely imperative that they be administered under your doctor’s close supervision!
Early and correct diagnosis is a must for outlining a treatment strategy and guarantee of high quality of life.