Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system protects you by attacking germs and bacteria. A person with lupus has an immune system that attacks normal, healthy body tissue and organs.
There are three different types of lupus:
• Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
This is the most common type of lupus. It affects the skin, bones, joints, kidneys, brain, heart, and lungs.
• Cutaneous Lupus
This type of lupus only affects the skin. People with cutaneous lupus; typically develop rashes on their scalp, neck, ears, and face.
• Drug-induced Lupus
Certain prescription drugs, such as anti-seizure and acne medications, may cause lupus. However, once the medication is discontinued, all symptoms cease.
Lupus is difficult to diagnose because most of its signs and symptoms are general and are easily confused with some other illness. Additionally, many people suffering from lupus have times when they experience no symptoms and other times when their symptoms are mild to severe. Common signs and symptoms of lupus include the following:
• Extreme, unexplained fatigue
• Joint pain, swelling, and/or stiffness
• Sores in the mouth and/or nose
• Unexplained fever
• Easy bruising
• Shortness of breath
• Sunlight sensitivity
• Butterfly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
• Mental confusion
Many of these signs and symptoms of lupus come and go and range in severity. They are also common symptoms of other illnesses and diseases, which makes lupus hard to diagnose. When suspecting lupus, doctors test for specific antibodies. Certain antibodies are present in about 95% of all lupus patients.
Lupus Risk Factors
While doctors have not yet pinpointed a specific cause of lupus, there are certain risk factors that may indicate a predisposition for the disease. Risk factors include:
• Sex – females are more likely than males to suffer from lupus
• Ethnicity – African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics are at an increased risk for the disease
• Chemical exposure – people who smoke or who are exposed to silica and mercury have an increased risk for developing lupus
• Epstein Barr virus exposure
Although treatment options for lupus vary, dependent upon the patient, some common medications and lifestyle modifications help patients deal with the symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol, help with joint and muscle pain. Antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication may aid with fatigue, confusion, and mood swings. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs reduce inflammation throughout the body and counteract the body’s overactive immune system. Support groups can assist people suffering from lupus deal with the mental and emotional consequences that accompany the disease.