14
May
2014

The essential information about Lupus

Everything you should know about Lupus

Learn about this disease.

What Is Lupus?

The immune system is designed to attack foreign substances in the body. If you have lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system and it attacks healthy cells and tissues. This can damage many parts of the body such as the:

  • Joints
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Blood vessels
  • Brain.

There are many kinds of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many parts of the body. Other types of lupus are:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus—causes a skin rash that doesn't go away
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus—causes skin sores on parts of the body exposed to sun
  • Drug-induced lupus—can be caused by medications
  • Neonatal lupus—a rare type of lupus that affects newborns.

Who Gets Lupus?

Anyone can get lupus, but it most often affects women. Lupus is also more common in women of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.

What Causes Lupus?

The cause of lupus is not known. Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely that many factors trigger the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Symptoms of lupus vary, but some of the most common symptoms of lupus are:

  • Pain or swelling in joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Red rashes, most often on the face
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Swelling in legs or around eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling very tired.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Anemia (a decrease in red blood cells)
  • Headaches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Feeling sad
  • Confusion
  • Seizures.

Symptoms may come and go. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares, which can range from mild to severe. New symptoms may appear at any time.

How Is Lupus Diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or years for a doctor to diagnose lupus. Your doctor may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • Medical history
  • Complete exam
  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy (looking at skin samples under a microscope
  • Kidney biopsy (looking at tissue from your kidney under a microscope).

How Is Lupus Treated?

You may need special kinds of doctors to treat the many symptoms of lupus. Your health care team may include:

  • A family doctor
  • Rheumatologists—doctors who treat arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in the joints
  • Clinical immunologists—doctors who treat immune system disorders
  • Nephrologists—doctors who treat kidney disease
  • Hematologists—doctors who treat blood disorders
  • Dermatologists—doctors who treat skin diseases
  • Neurologists—doctors who treat problems with the nervous system
  • Cardiologists—doctors who treat heart and blood vessel problems
  • Endocrinologists—doctors who treat problems related to the glands and hormones
  • Nurses
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers.

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to fit your needs. You and your doctor should review the plan often to be sure it is working. You should report new symptoms to your doctor right away so that treatment can be changed if needed.

 

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