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Information for Lupus Sufferers

What is Lupus?

Lupus, also called lupus erythematosus or SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), is a disease which affects the body’s immune system. Lupus is incurable, though it is treatable. In fact, many sufferers lead long lives. The mortality rate of lupus is very small, due to medical advancements.

Women or more likely to get lupus than men.

Lupus can strike anywhere in the body, but most commonly affects the joints, the skin, the kidneys, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the nervous system, and blood vessels. It tends to flare up and go into remission sporadically.

Due to the fact that lupus can cause the immune system to attack the joints, it is possible for a person to have both lupus and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time, though lupus does not cause joint destruction to the extent that rheumatoid arthritis does.

Women, people of African, Hispanic, and Asian heritage, are more susceptible to getting lupus.

It appears most often in people between the ages of 10 and 50.

Do I have it?

The American Rheumatism Association suggests that if you have had at least 4 of the following list of symptoms, you likely have lupus:

  • A malar rash (also called a butterfly rash) on the face.
  • Discoid rash – red, scaly patches on the skin
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Ulcers in mucous membranes
  • Inflammation of internal organs
  • Pre-existing arthritis
  • Kidney problems
  • Seizures or psychosis
  • Blood disorders, such as anemia
  • A general immune system disorder
  • A high anti-nuclear antibody count – there are more of these present in people with immune system disorders.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will begin by recording your complete medical history, including a description of your symptoms. You also will undergo a physical examination to check for any physical signs of the disease. To make a definitive diagnosis of lupus these tests may be used:

Natural pain relief for Lupus sufferers with joint pain.

Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA). This test identifies certain autoantibodies typically present in the blood of people with lupus. Most people with lupus test positive for ANA. However, a positive ANA result can occur due to infections and other rheumatic or immune diseases. In addition, healthy people without lupus also can test positive.

Other Blood Tests. Your doctor may order other blood tests for individual types of autoantibodies, which are more specific to people with lupus. These antibodies include anti-DNA and anti-ENA antibodies as well as serum complement levels. However, not all people with lupus have positive tests.

Urinalysis. Because lupus can cause kidney problems, your doctor may recommend an examination of your urine, called urinalysis. If elevated amounts of protein are found, you may be asked to collect all the urine you pass in a 24-hour period for analysis.

Biopsy. In certain situations, your doctor may recommend a biopsy of an affected organ, such as kidney or skin, to better help in diagnosis and treatment. A kidney biopsy requires an overnight hospital stay.

Your doctor may order a test for syphilis or anticardiolipin antibodies. A positive test does not mean that you have syphilis, but may indicate the presence of an antibody that increases the risk of blood clotting and miscarriages.

If you've already been diagnosed with lupus, meet with your doctor on a regular basis so that your condition and treatment can be monitored. Make an appointment with your doctor if new symptoms arise.

How did I get it?

The exact cause of lupus is still unknown, though there is speculation that it might be caused by one of the following:

  • Environment. Viruses and bacteria have been studied as a potential cause for lupus, and ultraviolet radiation from the Sun is known to make the rash on the face of lupus sufferers even worse.
  • Medicine and medical procedures. Lupus can actually be drug induced, through the intake of certain medications. Out of nearly 40 types of medications, the 3 which cause the highest number of cases of drug induced lupus erythematosus are hydralazine (used to lower blood pressure), procainamide (used to treat irregular heart beat patterns), and isoniazid (used to treat tuberculosis). Additionally, the actress Mary McDonough contracted lupus shortly after undergoing silicon breast implant surgery, which she blames for getting the disease. Her claim has not yet been substantiated.
  • Genetic factors. It has been shown that lupus has a certain genetic factor, as multiple members of the same family can have it. This logically means that it can be passed on to children from parents.

Do you have more questions?

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