What is Lupus?
Lupus refers to a group of diseases related to the immune system (Autoimmune disease) in which the immune system is unable to distinguish between normal cells and antigens, wrongly attacking healthy tissue.
Causes of Lupus
The exact cause of Lupus is unknown. Lupus is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental stimuli. Environmental factors that could trigger Lupus include:
- High Stress Levels
- Excessive exposure to sunlight.
- Certain types of medications and antibiotics, particularly penicillin and sulfa groups
- Certain types of infections
- Chemical exposure to compounds such as trichloroethylene.
Additionally, the incidence of Lupus is more in females than males indicating that certain hormones could trigger the disease.
Coping with Lupus
Since the exact cause of Lupus is unknown, there is no means of preventing or curing the disease. However, there are several measures that patients may take to cope with the disease such as getting regular exercise, eating healthy, adequate rest and activity, low stress and proper pain management.
Medications for Lupus
- Naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
Risk Factors of Lupus
Lupus has several risk factors as it affects several organs
- Heart: Inflammation of the heart membrane increases the risk of heart attacks
- Lungs: Increases risk of Pneumonia and results if breathing difficulty
- Kidneys: Kidney failure is one of the main causes of death in Lupus patients.
- Blood: Increases the risk of clotting, inflammation of blood vessels, anemia and bleeding.
- Nervous system: Lupus can result is seizures, psychosis, headaches, dizziness, loss of memory and behavioral changes.
- Bone: Lupus increases the risk of non-erosive arthritis and bone damage.
- Pregnancy: Increases the risk of hypertension during pregnancy, miscarriage and preterm birth.
Symptoms of Lupus
Symptoms of Lupus are varied. Some of the symptoms that have been observed are:
- Inflammation of the pleural membrane (Pleuritis)
- Inflammation of the pericardial membrane (Pericarditis)
- Non erosive arthritis of peripheral joints
- Blood disorders (Anemia, Lymphophenia, Thrombocytophenia, Leukopenia)
- More than 0.5g of protein in urine per day
- Malar rash (Butterfly shaped rash on cheeks and nose)
- Prolonged fatigue
- Skin lesions/ rashes on arms, hands, face, neck, back
- Chest pain on deep breathing/Shortness of breath
- Hair loss
- Mouth and nose ulcers
- Discoid rash
Treatment for Lupus
Lupus is incurable. Treatment of Lupus involves controlling the symptoms of the disease. Since the symptoms for Lupus vary, the treatments for the symptoms have to be tailored individually.
Patient having mild symptoms are treated with Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids. Antimalarial drugs have also proven effective against Lupus symptoms
Severe symptoms are treated with High Dose Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive drugs.
Lupus patients are also advised to improve their lifestyle by, eating healthy, exercising regularly, abstaining from smoking and reducing stress.
Types of Lupus
Lupus can be classified into four types:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)-It is the most serious form of Lupus. It affects various organs and systems in the body such as the lungs, the heart, skin, joints, kidneys and the nervous system.
- Discoid Lupus is less serious form than SLE and affects only the skin, typically as a rash found on the scalp, face and neck. Internal organs remain unaffected. However, due to the unpredictable nature of Lupus, there are chances of Discoid Lupus progressing into SLE. However, only 10% of Discoid Lupus cases have been seen to progress into SLE.
- Drug-induced Lupus is caused due to an adverse reaction to certain types of prescription drugs. Three drugs are known to be associated with the highest number of cases of Drug Induced Lupus namely hydralazine, procainamide and isoniazid. Apart from these there are up to 38 other medications that have been associated with this form of Lupus. Symptoms of drug induced lupus are similar to SLE and typically recede once the person suffering from the same stops the medication.
- Neo-natal Lupus is a rare condition present in infants, occurring when the autoimmune antibodies are passed on from mother to child. Rashes and skin lesions, though not present at birth, form after about week, eventually fading in about 6 months.