Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own tissues and organs. The inflammation caused by lupus can affect any part of the body including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
The most common form of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE and in its chronic form, the symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks, sometimes even for years. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that about 16,000 new cases are reported across the country each year.
Causes and Symptoms of Lupus
The causes of lupus are unknown, but some of the triggers and risk factors include:
- Prolonged stress, emotional trauma, extended exposure to sunlight, second-hand smoke and toxins
- Genetic factors may pose a small threat in combination with other factors
- The common cold and viral illnesses like mononucleosis, hepatitis C and the Epstein-Barr virus (in children)
- Drugs like septra, diuretics, penicillin, amoxicillin and ampicillin
The symptoms of lupus can be hard to diagnose as they vary from person to person. They also tend to go into remission and relapse.
The most common symptoms include:
- Stiffness, joint swelling and joint pain
- Butterfly rash (malar) on cheeks or other forms of rash on arms, neck, face, torso
- Skin rashes from exposure to ultraviolet light
- Nasal or mouth sores
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Kidney problems
Diagnosis and Treatment of Lupus
Diagnosing lupus is a complex process because the disease affects people differently. The signs and symptoms of lupus may vary over time and overlap with those of other disorders, and there isn’t a single test that can establish a diagnosis. Instead, a combination of blood and urine tests, symptoms and physical examinations are required to come to a conclusion.
The first test is usually the anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) screening. A positive result isn’t determinative, as it may still require other tests to correctly establish a lupus diagnosis. Other tests may include:
- Complete blood count (CBC) test that looks at the count of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells; low levels of these components may point at lupus
- Urine analysis that can show an increased level of red blood cells or proteins, to indicate that the disease may have affected the kidneys
- C-reactive protein (CRP) or erythrocyte sedimentation rate test (EST) to measure the rate at which the red blood cells settle at the bottom of the tube; the rate is higher when there is lupus
- Liver and kidney performance tests
- Chest X-ray to check for inflammation in the lungs or an enlarged heart
A number of medications and treatments are available to treat and manage the symptoms of lupus and can vary based on the severity of the condition. Some common strategies include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Corticosteroid drugs like prednisolone
- Antimalarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine phosphate
Herbs like astragalus and Tripterygium wilfordii might offer relief from certain symptoms, while homeopathic medicines like Rhus toxicodendron, Ruta graveolens, Thuja occidentalis and Apis mellifica may also help.
Along with medications, some lifestyle changes may also help manage lupus. These include:
- Avoiding direct sunlight by wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, etc.
- Rest and physical therapy for muscle weakness
- Yoga and meditation
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
Since there is no specific cause for lupus, prevention can be difficult. But once diagnosed, you could prevent future flare-ups by watching for warning signs like increased pain, rashes, fatigue and headache. It would also help to have a support system comprising friends and family to get you through a flare-up.
The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.
Zhao, X. Z. (1992, November). [Effects of Astragalus membranaceus and Tripterygium hypoglancum on natural killer cell activity of peripheral blood mononuclear in systemic lupus erythematosus]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1301849
Tao, X., Fan, F., Hoffmann, V., Gao, C. Y., Longo, N. S., Zerfas, P., & Lipsky, P. E. (2008, June). Effective therapy for nephritis in (NZB x NZW)F1 mice with triptolide and tripdiolide, the principal active components of the Chinese herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18512813