What is Lupus?
Lupus Erythmatosus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body. Lupus mainly affects the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. The immune system normally makes proteins, antibodies that protect the body against viruses, bacteria and to the foreign materials called antigens. Because Lupus is an autoimmune disease, the immune system looses it’s ability to tell the difference between antigens and its own cells and tissues, thus forcing the immune system to make antibodies directed against “self”. These antibodies, known as auto-antibodies, react with the “self” antigens to form immune complexes that build up in the tissues and can cause inflammation and pain.
Lupus is the Latin word for wolf, which has been associated with the disease since the 10 century. This is thought to be because the red lesions associated with Lupus were thought to resemble the bite of a wolf. Erythmatosus means redness.
Types of Lupus
Systemic Lupus (SLE) is the most common and is usually more severe. Systemic Lupus can affect almost any organ or system of the body. For some only the skin and joints are affected and for others the joints, lungs, kidneys, blood or other organs may be affected. No two people with Lupus will have identical symptoms. Systemic Lupus may include periods in which few, if any, symptoms are evident (remission) and other times the disease is more active (flares). Discoid Lupus (cutaneous) is always limited to the skin. It is identified by a rash that may appear on the face, neck and scalp. This type of Lupus is often diagnosed by examining a biopsy of the rash and generally does not involve the body’s internal organs. Discoid Lupus can evolve into Systemic Lupus, which can not be prevented or predicted. Drug-Induced Lupus occurs after the use of certain prescribed drugs and the symptoms are similar to those of Systemic Lupus. The drugs most commonly connected with this form of Lupus are hydralazines which are used to treat irregular heart rhythms. This type is more common in men, because there are given hydralazines more often than women. Only about 4% of those that take these drugs will develop Lupus.
People of all races can have Lupus. African American women are three times more likely to develop Lupus than Caucasian women and tend to be diagnosed at an earlier age and have more severe complications. Lupus is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent.
Symptoms of Lupus
• Achy or swollen joints
• Persistent fever over 100 degrees
• Prolonged, extreme fatigue
• Skin rashes, including a butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks and nose
• Pain in the chest on deep breathing
• Excessive protein in the urine
• Sensitivity to sun or ultraviolet light
• Hair loss
• Abnormal blood clotting
• Fingers turning white and or blue in the cold
• Mouth or nose ulcers lasting longer than two weeks
Cause of Lupus
The cause of Lupus is unknown. While many believe there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, it is also known that environmental factors play a critical role in triggering Lupus. Some of the factors that trigger Lupus are infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs and hormones.
Diagnosis of Lupus
Due to the fact that many symptoms of Lupus mimic other illnesses, are sometimes vague, and may come and go, Lupus can be difficult to diagnose. Diagnosis is usually made by a careful review of a person’s entire medical history coupled with an analysis of the results obtained in routine lab tests and some specialized tests related to immune status.
Criteria Used In The Diagnosis Of Lupus
• Malar rash (rash over cheeks)
• Discoid rash (red raised patches)
• Photosensitivity (reaction to sunlight)
• Oral ulcers (painless and in nose or mouth)
• Arthritis (non-erosive arthritis involving two or more peripheral joints)
• Serositis (Pleuritis or pericarditis/inflammation of the lining of the heart or lung)
• Renal Disorder (excessive protein in urine)
• Neurological Disorder (seizures)
• Hematological Disorder (Anemia, leukopenia, lymphopenia)
• Antinuclear Antibody (positive test for ANA in absence of drugs known to induce it)
• Immunologic Disorder (positive anti-double stranded DNA test, positive anti-Sm test,etc)
Adapted from: Tan, E.M., et. al. The 1982 Revised Criteria of the Classification of SLE. Arth Rheum 25: 1271-1277.
More Facts About Lupus
• Lupus is NOT infectious, rare or cancerous
• Although Lupus ranges from mild to life threatening and thousands die each year, the majority of the cases are controlled with proper treatment
• Increased professional awareness and improved diagnostic tests and evaluations are contributing to the early diagnosis and treatment of Lupus.
• 80-90% of Lupus patients can look forward to a normal lifespan.
• People with Lupus can look great, but they often are hurting internally.
• Some refer to the disease as the “hidden handicap” and some as the “mystery disease”.
• When people die of Lupus they usually die from overwhelming infection and kidney failure.
· May is National Lupus Awareness Month
· They butterfly is the symbol of Lupus
· Purple signifies Lupus Awareness