“What is Lupus?” It’s a question asked every day by people who are unfamiliar with the disease and those getting diagnosed and hearing the word for the first time.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease. The easiest way to describe this disease is that in someone who has it, the immune system that was originally designed to protect the body turns against itself. Over time, this causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, and chronic inflammation over time damages the body’s organs and tissues.
Although Lupus can affect almost any part of the body, the organs most commonly affected are the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. Lupus can also affect the joints, blood vessels and skin. No two cases of the disease are alike however, so while one person may have his or her skin and kidneys affected, another person may have heart and lung involvement.
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 come to mind, such as:
“Where does it come from?”
“How long will I have it for?”
“Is it contagious?”
“What are the different types of lupus?”
Where Does Lupus Come From?
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 of this disease.
Research indicates that some people are genetically predisposed to lupus, and when they experience a specific trigger – such as physical injury, pregnancy, or extreme stress – symptoms may come out. It is important to note that Lupus is not contagious – you cannot catch it from someone through physical contact, saliva, intimacy, etc.
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 and lifestyle changes. Research is continuously being done on this disease, and new medications are currently being studied and tested on patients through clinical trials.
Of those diagnosed with lupus, which is estimated to be roughly 1.5 million Americans and more than 5 million worldwide, 80% will be between the ages of 15 and 45 years old, and 90% will be women.
How Long Will I Live?
Most patients lead active or semi-active lives and can live normal/average life spans. It is estimated 10 -15 % of people may have a shortened lifespan due to the disease.
What is a Flare Up?
Lupus is a disease known for remissions and flares. This means 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.”
Flares can be triggered by various things, and each person will recognize over time what can bring about a flare up. Examples of flare up triggers include sunlight and heat, infection, lack of sleep, stress, and physical exertion.
Over time, you will learn more about your body and how this disease affects you. If you have been recently diagnosed, we suggest you keep a detailed daily journal that contains information such as: the foods you are eating, how much sleep you are getting, what medications and supplements you are taking, what stressors are in your life that day, if you took a nap, your symptoms and the severity of your symptoms, if you have your period, etc.
Over time, you will be able to track patterns when it comes to flares and an increase in symptoms, and this will give you a better idea of what your personal triggers may be.
Continue reading through the in-depth series:
You’re here: What is Lupus?
#3: Lupus Symptoms