Lupus – causes, symptoms and treatment
A worldwide problem, Lupus is a rare chronic autoimmune disease which causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs. This causes widespread infection and inflammation.
According to a 2007 study based on the UK General Practice Research Database (covering 5% of the population) it is estimated that the incidence of Lupus during the 1990’s was about 4.7 people in every 100,000.
The main symptoms of Lupus are painful and swollen joints particularly first thing in the day and extreme tiredness that won’t go away.
Other signs of the disease can be:
- Ulcers in your mouth or nose
- Thinning hair which is brittle and breaks easily, Also hair loss
- Unexplained low grade fever for no apparent reason
- Chest pain which is caused by inflamed lungs
- Kidney problems
- Poor circulation in fingers and toes
- Occasional heartburn or acid reflux
- Some people experience thyroid problems
- Brain fog
- Weight loss
- Swollen glands
- Sensitivity to sunlight and fluorescent lights
- A butterfly-shaped rash which appears over the nose and onto both cheeks
- Raised red patches on your skin
- A raised number of antibodies in the blood
One rare side effect is Sjogren’s disease which is a separate autoimmune disorder which causes dry eyes and mouth.
Who gets Lupus and what causes it?
It is women who mainly suffer with Lupus; the split seems to be 90% women to 10% men. The disease is more two to three times more likely to appear in people of Afro-Caribbean or Asian origin and seems to be more aggressive than in Caucasian populations.
According to the charity Lupus UK the main trigger of lupus is
“hormonal activity and change, and lupus can often trigger after childbirth,
at the menopause or during puberty and usually at the ages of 15 to 55”
The triggers themselves are currently said to be a combination of two or more of the following
“a viral infection, strong medicine, sunlight or trauma”
Diagnosis and Treatment
Unfortunately diagnosis is tricky as the combination, duration, frequency and severity of symptoms is highly individual. The average delay in diagnosis is 6 years and it’s not uncommon for people to be initially diagnosed with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis as these show many similar symptoms. Diagnosis is often achieved through a rheumatologist although other specialists may be involved.
Treatment varies according to the specific symptoms and generally includes:
- anti inflammatories for joint pain
- anti malarials for skin, joints and fatigue
- steroid tablets/injections/creams for kidney inflammation and rashes
- Immunosuppressants - mostly for kidney disease
- Some patients benefit from tablets for blood pressure, diuretics, anti-depressants and anti-coagulants.
- Vastly improved sun protection creams are also very helpful
There is presently no cure for Lupus but many patients can live virtually normal lives with the assistance of health professionals and by positively managing their symptoms. As emotional factors can cause flare ups they should also lean how to effectively to resolve negative emotions.
It is helpful to be open about the disease with friends, family and colleagues and employers so that they can be more understanding and accommodating.
There is a great deal of information and useful resources on www.lupusuk.org.uk
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