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Lupus is a complex disease that although major progress has been made in the treatment and understanding of it, still remains a disease about which there are more questions than answers. There appear to be a number of types of lupus that exist with varying symptoms. In general, lupus is an inflammatory disease, the inflammation in question being caused by a dysfunction of the immune system. The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of lupus, including its symptoms and potential treatment options. Readers of this article should only consider it to be a starting point for a broader search for information from a variety of reputable sources of medical information. As always, should you require immediate medical attention or advice it is recommended that you consult a trained, certified and licensed health care professional such as your family physician.
The number of areas of the body that lupus can strike are many and include organs such as the lungs, kidney and heart as well as your joints, blood cells and skin. This disease primarily affects women and what occurs in lupus is that the aforementioned areas of the body are attacked by the body’s own immune system. In the past, the results of this disease were completely devastating, but as this article will hopefully demonstrate, there are treatment options available for individuals who have lupus.
Lupus Disease exists in three main forms. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most serious of the three types and is the most common one. It is characterised by swelling and pain in the joints, a lupis rash on the skin, fatigue and damage to the kidneys. This rash is thought to have originally been thought to look similar to the bite of a wolf and as such lent its name, lupus meaning wolf (the species name being Canis Lupus), do the disease. It should be noted, however, that this rash does not occur in all cases of lupus. The other two types of lupus are discoid lupus erythematosus and drug induced lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus
One of the difficulties in identifying lupus and the symptoms of lupus is that it is a very idiosyncratic disease and as such two individuals who have been diagnosed with lupus may in fact have very different experiences of the disease and as such lupus symptoms are variable. What characterises the symptomatic aspects of lupus is that there are periodic episodes or flare ups during which the symptoms get worse before at times going away completely only to return at a later time.
Given that the symptom profile of individuals with lupus it is difficult to say that there are particular Early Lupus Symptoms or First Lupus Symptoms. However, one of the main symptoms as previously mentioned is the rash, which according to the Mayo Clinic only develops in one third of all patients with lupus. The rash is butterfly-shaped, known as a malar rash, and is spread across the cheeks and nose and in some cases individuals with lupus have skin lesions that can either resemble small pimples or can be quite large. In individuals with discoid lupus, a thick, scaly and long-lasting form of the rash is in fact the only symptom of lupus. As the immune system can attack the joints, one of the other symptoms of lupus is arthritis which can be extremely painful but is not often severely debilitating as in other types of arthritis. If the immune system attacks the kidney it can reduce the capacity of the kidney to perform its job, leading to a potential failure of the kidney. If the skin is affected, one of the side effects can be sensitivity to sunlight, which is known as photosensitivity, resulting in a rash. Brain and nervous system difficulties can be quite severe include a potential stroke, seizures, headaches and vision difficulties. An inflammation of the heart is another potential symptom which in a flare up can be extremely painful to the level that the affected individual may feel as though they are having a heart attack. There are a number of other symptoms of lupus, which all vary based upon which part of the body the immune system is attacking, which can result in lung problems, ulcers a variety of blood vessel disorders, swelling, tiredness, a fever, digestive issues and even hair loss.
What is lupus caused by?
As previously mentioned, lupus is a disease whereby the immune system attacks parts of the body leading to inflammation. This is known as an autoimmune disease, which may be the result from any number of factors. As it stands, we still are not entirely sure how lupus is caused, but some factors, including genetic ones and the following, may contribute to the development of this disease. It is thought that viral or bacterial infections, especially recurrent ones, may in some cases lead to lupus. There is a form of lupus known as drug induced lupus that has been associated with a number of drugs from antipsychotic medications such as chlorpromazine to even some kinds of antibiotics. This is usually the result of many years of taking such a drug and, interestingly, the drug induced form unlike the other forms of lupus is more likely to affect men than women. It is also thought that other factors such as some kinds of lesions brought about by exposure to the sun, or potentially female hormones such as estrogen might have some role in bringing on lupus given that it is more prevalent in women than in men. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the various possible causes of lupus and for further information be sure to contact a trained health care professional.
There are a number of potential drugs that can be used to treat lupus, though all of the drugs also have their own risks and due to the variable nature of the symptoms and types of lupus it may take some time to decide which treatment regimen is best suited to the individual patient. Some drugs include anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antimalarial drugs, though it is unsure why they are effective, corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory in nature, as well as immunosuppressive medications that will weaken the immune system that is attacking the body, causing the inflammation.