What is Lupus? Lupus is a chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease. In a patient with Lupus, the immune system that was originally designed to protect the body turns against itself. This in turn leads to inflammation, and chronic inflammation over time damages the body's organs and tissues.
Although Lupus can affect almost any part of the body, the organs mostly affected are the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. Lupus can also affect the joints, blood vessels and skin.
Of those diagnosed, 80% will be between the ages of 15 and 45 years old. Lupus is a complicated disease to understand. When a patient is diagnosed with Lupus or is being tested for it, a number of questions can pop into their minds including:
“Where does it come from?”
“How long will I have it for?”
"Is Lupus contagious?"
“What are the different types of Lupus?”
To begin, the cause of Lupus is not yet known. It is believed that different pieces such as genetics, the patient’s environmental factors and/or triggers, and hormones might fit together to make up the mysterious puzzle that is known as Lupus. It is important to note that Lupus is not contagious.
Studies are being conducted to determine whether genes, medications, stress or certain viruses bring about the disease. Although there is no cure for Lupus at the moment, most cases can be effectively controlled with medication. Research is continuously being done on Lupus and new medications are being created.
Most Lupus patients lead active or semi-active lives. Lupus patients can have periods where their disease is not active, otherwise known as a remission period, and they can have periods where it is active, also known as a “flare up."
Each Lupus patient is different and it is often said in the Lupus community that no two patients are alike. Over time, you will learn more about your body and how Lupus affects you.
The different types of Lupus:
Did you know there are different types of Lupus? Get the facts about Lupus here:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE:
This is the most common type of Lupus and can affect many different parts of the body such as the brain, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, skin or joints. SLE symptoms can range from very mild to serious. Although it can affect people in their childhood or later in life, it is most often diagnosed between 15-45 years of age.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus:
This type of Lupus affects the skin only. DLE usually produces a red raised, scaly rash on the skin, face, scalp or other parts of the body. The rash can become thick at times and may cause scarring. It can also appear as disks or in circular patterns. The rash can last anywhere from several days to weeks and may reoccur. Some patients that have DLE have SLE or may develop it later on.
Drug Induced Lupus:
This is a form of Lupus that is brought on by medications. There are many drugs that can cause this including Hydralazine, Procainamide, Methyldopa, and d-Penicillamine just to name a few. Symptoms of this type of Lupus are similar to SLE such as fever, rash, & pain and usually go away within six months after the medication is discontinued.
This is a less common form of Lupus that occurs in a newborn of a mother who has Lupus. The newborn may present with liver issues, skin rashes or anemia. In most cases, symptoms go away and will not cause permanent damage to the baby, however, some babies with Neonatal Lupus can be born with a severe heart defect. It is important to remember that most infants born to Lupus patients are healthy.
Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus:
According to the National Institute of Health, this is a type of Lupus that causes skin sores on areas that have been exposed to the sun.
Lupus symptoms vary from person to person. Here is a comprehensive list of the most common Lupus symptoms you could experience:
- Swollen Joints
- Painful Joints
- Fever, usually 100 degrees or higher with no known cause
- Rashes, usually on face and neck. Sometimes the rash can appear on the trunk of the body
- Chest pain upon taking a deep breath
- Thinning hair, or hair loss
- Sun Sensitivity
- Mouth or nose sores
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Swollen glands
- Purple or pale fingers or toes
There are additional lupus symptoms, some of which can be more severe, but these vary depending on which body systems are affected in the patient. The symptoms listed above are among the most common among patients.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosing Lupus has proven to be difficult over the years. Depending on who you ask, you might be told it took anywhere from a year to several years for a Lupus patient to be properly diagnosed. This is one of the reasons Lupus is called the “great imitator.” Lupus symptoms come and go, and they can mimic many other diseases.
A 2016 LupusChick research study, in conjunction with Clark University and researcher Maria Mongiardo, interviewed over 2,000 patients whose average time span between initial symptoms and diagnosis was six years!
A Rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in connective tissue diseases, often diagnoses Lupus. Other physicians who might test and diagnose Lupus include your primary doctor, a dermatologist, a kidney specialist, heart specialist and more. Diagnosis is typically made through consideration of your symptoms and blood work results.
Treatments vary between patients, as there are different types of Lupus and it is said no two cases are alike. Depending on your symptoms and severity of Lupus, treatment may include steroids, anti-malarials, immunosuppressants, chemo, and other medications.
Do I Have Lupus?
You might be asking yourself, “Do I have Lupus?” Many men, women and children who are experiencing Lupus symptoms consider this question often. Below you will find detailed information on the eleven criteria that are used in determining if an individual has Lupus. If a patient has four or more of the symptoms, then Lupus might be suspected. The symptoms do not have to occur at the same time.
The following criteria, in conjunction with a full medical history and diagnostic tools and tests, will help a physician make a diagnosis of Lupus. Be patient if your doctor is testing you for Lupus because it can be a difficult disease to diagnose and it may take some time before you receive your results.
- Butterfly Rash—A rash that can extend over the nose to the cheeks.
- Discoid Rash—This is a thicker rash that is usually raised and can scar, especially on sun-exposed areas.
- Photosensitivity—This is a rash that occurs after being exposed to sunlight.
- Oral Ulcers—These ulcers can occur in the nose or the mouth and are usually recurring.
- Arthritis—An Inflammation of two peripheral joints, usually occurring with tenderness and swelling.
- Serositis—This is an inflammation of the lung lining, known as Pleuritis, or an inflammation of the heart lining, known as Pericarditis.
- Disorders of the Kidney—Proteins found in the urine or abnormal sediments found in the urine (these can be seen under a microscope).
- Neurologic Disorders—Convulsions or Seizures or Psychosis that occurs in the absence of drugs that are known to cause these conditions.
- Abnormalities in the Blood—Hemolytic Anemia, Low White Blood Cell counts, or Low Platelet counts.
- Immunologic Disorders—Blood tests that indicates Lupus anticoagulant, anti-DNA, false-positive syphilis test, positive anti-Sm or antiphospholipid antibodies.
- Positive ANA (Antinuclear Antibodies)—Blood Test in the absence of drugs known to induce it.
The content provided in this website is for informational purposes only and is NOT in any way to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a physician with any medical questions pertaining to Lupus. Do not start or stop any treatment or diet without first consulting with a physician.