What is Lupus?
The human body has a protective system - the immune system - that responds to attacks from viruses, bacteria, infections, and other negative external agents to safeguard the body’s integrity and health. But what is lupus? This prototypic systemic autoimmune disease affects the immune system and causes the uncontrolled production of various antibodies. In this way, lupus causes the patients’ immune system to turn against them and attack the body itself. The clinical manifestations of lupus are diverse in character and severity, ranging from mild joint and skin problems to severe, deadly multisystem disruptions.
It is often challenging to diagnose this condition since it has symptoms that may be related to other illnesses. However, a common sign that doctors use for correct diagnosis is the butterfly-like rash on the patients’ cheeks. If it is left untreated, lupus is indeed a life-threatening disease.
Causes of Lupus
The causes of lupus are still poorly understood, with two main assumptions resting on environmental triggers and heredity. Thus, if any of your relatives or predecessors had lupus, you are at a higher risk of getting it after coming into contact with a certain environmental trigger.
Below are some causes that contribute to the onset of this disease:
- Long-term sun exposure;
- Certain infections in the body;
- Some medications (e.g., hypertension drugs and antibiotics);
- Age and gender (young women are at greatest risk).
Types of Lupus and its Stages
There are four types of lupus that affect people differently.
- Systemic lupus (lupus nephritis)
This is the most common type and affects many people. Although it impacts most of the body’s organs, the kidneys are the most vulnerable.
- Cutaneous lupus (CCLE)
CCLE causes specific and nonspecific lesions on the patient’s skin, primarily on the face. This condition does not affect internal organs and rarely develops into systemic lupus (in under 10% of the patient population), but its lengthy duration can lead to scars and skin atrophy.
- Drug-induced lupus (DIL)
DIL is not exactly lupus, but rather a lupus-like syndrome developing as the body’s reaction to certain medications (e.g., hydralazine, procainamide, and isoniazid). This type occurs more often in male patients, as these medications are traditionally prescribed to men. The symptoms go away within half a year of the treatment’s termination, so this type of lupus is not life-threatening.
- Neonatal lupus
This is also a pseudo-disease diagnosed in infants of mothers with lupus. Although the symptoms are temporary, such infants should still be kept under close supervision because the antibodies in the mother's body may cause serious heart diseases.
The first type of lupus is the most hazardous form of the disease, so its signs and symptoms will be discussed further. With the condition primarily affecting the patient’s kidneys and then progressing to other organs and organ systems, its severity is classified from 1 to 7 depending on the advancement of the disease.
Signs and Symptoms
Lupus affects individuals differently. The signs appear and progress slowly, and the cases are not usually the same. Each symptom depends on the organ affected by lupus. Below is a list of common symptoms in most patients:
- Feeling tired;
- High body temperature;
- Butterfly-like rashes on the cheeks or other body parts;
- Pain in the chest;
- Dry eyes;
- Headaches and loss of memory;
- Being sensitive to the sun;
- Shortness of breath.
Since this disease is viewed as a chronic autoimmune illness, it has a severe impact on one’s life expectancy, but it is quite tricky to calculate the life span of this disease. Due to modern scientific advancements, treatment improvements play a role in prolonging the lives of people with this disease. Thus, patients with this condition can have an average life expectancy if they undergo proper treatment, and there is no specific death age for people living with this illness.
Many people may ask the question, ‘Can lupus go away?’ According to research, there is still no cure for lupus. The primary aim of treating this illness is to either reduce or eliminate the symptoms to enable one to live a normal life. For instance, medications can stop kidney damage early at the onset to prevent the disease’s progression and help the patient avoid needing a transplant.
Other non-pharmacological recommendations include a low-salt diet and a higher intake of proteins. Patients are required to use the medicines for hypertension, and drugs that are meant to suppress the immune system. Finally, one needs to make adjustments in their lifestyle such as avoiding direct sunlight and environments that may trigger lupus. If you or a loved one has lupus, experts from Buffalo Home Care can provide comprehensive expert assistance with daily routines and self-care in the comfort of your home. Life with lupus can be full, satisfying, and enjoyable if you have a reliable helping hand.