What is lupus?

Lupus is a disease that damages the immune system; that is, your own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. This can cause damage to many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.

There are different types of lupus:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus: This is the most common type and it may be mild or acute and can damage many parts of the body.
  • Discoid lupus: This type of lupus causes a rash on the skin that won't go away.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus: Causes blisters after exposure to the sun.
  • Drug-induced lupus: This is caused by some medications. The disease usually disappears when you stop taking the medication in question.
  • Neonatal lupus: This affects newborns, but it is not common. It may be caused by certain antibodies in the mother’s body.

Prognosis of the disease:

We have not yet found a cure for lupus; a disease that can still be fatal for some. However, if treatment is successful it is rare for a person to die from lupus. Around 80-90% of people diagnosed with lupus live for more than 10 years after learning they have the disease. In addition, people who have some organs affected by the disease, but whose life is not at risk, usually live a completely normal life if they follow the advice of their specialist, which is to take prescription medications and to seek help if there are undesirable side-effects, or if new symptoms of the disease appear.

Symptoms of lupus:

Lupus can have a variety of symptoms depending on the individual. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain or swelling in the joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Red rashes on the skin, mostly on the face and in the form of a butterfly
  • Chest pain when breathing deeply
  • Hair loss
  • White or purple fingers or toes
  • Sunlight sensitivity
  • Swelling in the legs or eye area
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling of tiredness.

These symptoms can be intermittent and are referred to as “outbreaks”. These outbreaks may be mild or severe and new symptoms may appear at any time.

Medical tests for lupus:

As with the symptoms, there is no single test to diagnose lupus, because it can sometimes be confused with other diseases. It can take months or years for a specialist to diagnose lupus. Some of the medical tests that the specialist may use to diagnose lupus include:

  • A detailed evaluation of someone’s medical history
  • Full physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy
  • Kidney biopsy

What causes lupus?

The cause of lupus and its risk factors are currently unknown. Anyone can get lupus, but women are at a higher risk for the disease. Lupus is two to three times more common in African-American women than in white women. Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are also more likely to develop lupus. African-American and Hispanic women are more susceptible to the most severe types of lupus.

Can lupus be prevented?

Lupus can occur without any symptoms, so it is difficult to know if it can be completely prevented during a person's lifetime. The best thing you can do to reduce the chances of developing lupus is to follow a balanced diet and to exercise regularly, i.e. have a healthy lifestyle.

  • Taking care of your diet: By eating the right foods and eating a healthy diet you can prevent inflammation of the organs, which is one of the main symptoms of lupus.
  • Exercise: Staying active and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can help you build strength, control your weight and even improve your mood. Check with your specialist about the type of exercise you can do, because the organs affected by lupus could complicate the practice of some exercises.
  • Take supplements: These can add nutritional value to your diet and can also help reduce inflammation throughout your body. Krill oil, for example, contains nutrients that can improve your cardiovascular health if taken regularly.

Treatments for lupus:

There is no treatment to cure lupus, but medication and lifestyle changes can help control the disease. The aims of each treatment are to:

  • Prevent outbreaks
  • Treat symptoms as soon as they appear
  • Reduce organ damage and other problems.

Treatments may be accompanied by medication for:

  • Reducing inflammation and pain
  • Preventing or reducing outbreaks
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Preventing or reducing joint damage
  • Balancing hormones.

In addition to taking medicine for lupus, you may need to take medicine for other problems related to lupus, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or infections. There are alternative treatments that take a completely different path to conventional treatments. However, there is currently no medical research regarding current, useful alternative therapies to combat lupus. Some alternative or complementary approaches may help improve the quality of life of those with a chronic illness like this. Before undertaking any alternative treatment, you should consult a specialist.

Which specialist treats lupus?

People with lupus will see several different doctors. Including, a primary care doctor, dermatologists, cardiologists, pain specialists, to name a few.