Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the body itself. This process causes inflammation and damage to healthy organs of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, bones, blood or brain. There are a variety of types of lupus that can occur, but the most common type of lupus is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE and is diagnosed mostly in women. Women between the ages of 15-45 are most likely to be diagnosed with lupus. In the United States lupus may also occur more often in those whose skin pigmentation is darker as opposed to those with lighter skin.

Lupus is said to be caused by a variety of factors which include genetics, drugs, and the environment. Genetics in a way that if you have an identical twin, then you are three to ten times at risk of acquiring the disease than having a non-identical twin. Having close relatives who have lupus makes you more likely to get the disease than others who may not have any cases of Lupus in their family history. Environment, there are agents lingering in the environment that can be linked to the development of the ailment. Stress and hormonal changes, particularly those related to a women’s menstrual cycle or pregnancy can also set off lupus.

Drug-induced, certain drugs such as procainamide(Procanbid), hydralazine (Apresoline), and isoniazid (Laniazid) predisposes you to acquiring Lupus. Antibiotics may also induce lupus particularly those which have sulfa in them and/or medications in the penicillin family. However, Lupus that is caused by exposure to these drugs stops when the drugs are no longer taken. Here’s is a story of a patient who’s been diagnosed with lupus erythematosus. This story will help you understand the signs and symptoms caused by this autoimmune disorder. Photo Courtesy: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

symptomsoflupus Symptoms of Lupus: A story to share…

It was one gloomy afternoon when we entered the gates of our school upon arriving from a science field trip. We were inquisitive upon seeing rashes resembling a butterfly on my friend’s face. Though, we thought at that moment that it was just a typical skin reaction due to the sun exposure while we were on the field. As days and weeks passed by we were shock with the progression of her markings. We witnessed the rapid weight deterioration of our classmate, constant body fatigue even in simple chores in school, and her regular absences due to fever without any underlying cause.

One Wednesday morning, when we were having our math lecture, our professor received a phone call from my classmate’s mom conveying the distressing message that Diane was diagnosed with Lupus. We were so concerned with our beloved friend’s health, so the class decided to visit her at their house which is just a walking distance from our school. There we saw Diane having chest pains when taking deep breaths, she had evident mouth sores, and her hair was no longer long and shiny since her hair was falling out. Our hearts ached as Diane shared with us her symptoms: fatigue, weight loss, joint pain and discomfort, mouth sores, and skin lesions.  We wanted to help her but it seems that there is no cure for Lupus, otherwise known as SLE at the present time. Treatment is what is called “supportive” in the medical field, meaning that the treatment is only aimed at controlling symptoms but it does not give a total remedy for the disease itself.

There are no identified means to circumvent the development of Lupus. However, it is possible to prevent flares. To prevent such, patients are asked to follow a healthy diet, engage in continuous regular exercise, follow proper stress management, obtain adequate sleep and minimize excessive exposure to sun. We really have to be cautious and always on the guard when it comes to our health.

Physicians do have medications that can help patients during times of stress or Lupus “flares”. Again, these medications are not curative, but can help with the symptoms and prevent the inflammation that can damage organs when the disease is most active. Medications may include Aspirin, Tylenol, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or celecoxib (Celebrex). Sometimes patients find that one particular type of medication may work best for them.

Other types of medications used to treat Lupus patients include corticosteroids, antimalarials, and even immunosuppressives. Patients have been known to go into remission for months or years with Lupus, and even those patients who may be prescribed a course of the heavy duty type medicines like an immunosuppressive, which is used to stop the immune system’s response from being so overactive, sometimes go for a long period of time before having another flare up. Some patients during the times of remission, may lead fairly normal lives, and just need to be careful about overexerting themselves, limit sun exposure, manage stress appropriately, and engage in some type of exercise and eat healthy meals.