- What Is It?
- 4 Types
- First Signs
What is lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue. It affects the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels, leading to inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus
What are the four types of lupus?
The four types of lupus are:
- Lupus dermatitis: Lupus affecting the skin in the form of a rash.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): This type of lupus affects the internal organs and is the most serious type.
- Drug-induced lupus: This type of lupus occurs as a result of an overreaction to certain medications such as Apresoline (hydralazine) or quinidine and Pronestyl (procainamide). It is similar to SLE.
- Neonatal lupus: Lupus affecting an infant as a result of passively acquiring antibodies from a mother with SLE.
How does a person get lupus?
The exact cause of SLE is unknown, however, there are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting lupus, such as the following:
Genetic and hormonal factors may contribute to lupus
- Exposure to UV rays
- Microbial response
- Certain medications
- Silica dust
- Cigarette smoking
- Photosensitivity (sensitivity to sunlight)
Other risk factors
- Family history of SLE
- Female sex
- Chronic infections
- Use of estrogen in women undergoing menopause
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding have shown to decrease the risk of SLE.
- Women of childbearing ages (15-44 years)
- High-risk ethnic backgrounds such as African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians.
Early-life risk factors
- Low birth weight (<2,500 g)
- Preterm birth (birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy)
- Exposure to pesticides during childhood
What is usually the first sign of lupus?
Fatigue, fever, joint pain, and weight changes are usually the first signs of lupus. Some adults may have a period of SLE symptoms known as flares, which may occur frequently, sometimes even years apart and resolve at other times—called remission. Other symptoms include:
- Sun sensitivity
- Oral ulcers
- Blood cell and immunological abnormalities
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Facial rash (butterfly rash)
- Chest pain caused due to inflammation of the lining that surrounds the lung (pleuritis) and the heart (pericarditis)
- Raynaud’s phenomenon (poor circulation to the fingers and toes with cold exposure)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)
What are the complications of lupus?
The complications that accompany lupus are as follows:
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How is lupus diagnosed?
Physicians diagnose lupus with the help of the following laboratory tests:
- Specific antibody tests for SLE (e.g., antinuclear antibodies)
- Complete blood cell count (CBC) to screen for anemia and thrombocytopenia
- Serum creatinine for kidney disease
- Urinalysis for kidney disease
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) for inflammation
- Liver function tests
Radiographic tests such as computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and joint radiograph also detect abnormalities.
Ultimately, a skin biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis.
How is lupus treated?
There is no cure for lupus. Management of SLE depends on disease severity and disease manifestations.
Hydroxychloroquine is effective in the long-term treatment of SLE. Immunosuppressive medicines help to inhibit the activity of the immune system, which can also be useful in treating SLE.
Can a person die from lupus?
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