Lupus is a chronic, and often debilitating autoimmune inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system becomes overactive, and attacks your own tissue and organs. Inflammation caused by Lupus can affect many different body systems, including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, lungs, and even your brain.
Four types of Lupus exist:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) - The most serious, involves the body's systems and organs, which most commonly include the kidneys, skin, blood, joints, brain, and lungs. It can affect nearly any part of your body, and when people talk about lupus, they’re usually referring to systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Discoid Lupus Erythematosus - Also known as Cutaneous Lupus, affects only the skin. People with discoid lupus, experience a circular rash on the neck, face and scalp. Some of people with discoid lupus may develop systemic lupus erythematosus, though it is not possible to calculate who will develop the severe form of lupus.
- Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus - Can occur after taking certain prescription antibiotic medications such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, and cloxacillin, or sulfa drugs such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, sulfisoxazole, and sulfasalazine. Not everyone taking these medications develops lupus, and signs and symptoms usually go away when the medication is stopped.
- Neonatal Lupus - A rare form of lupus that affects newborn babies, certain antibodies that are linked to autoimmune diseases can pass from the mother to the developing fetus, even if she has no signs or symptoms.
WHO GETS LUPUS?
According to research (the Lupus Foundation of America), the majority of those with Lupus are women - about 90% - and most are stricken during childbearing years (ages 15-45). Men and children also get Lupus, but their numbers are low - 5000 to 10,000 out of the 1.5 million estimated cases in the U.S.
There tends to be more cases in the African American, Latin American, Asian and Native American communities and no one seems to know why. African-American women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get Lupus and develop severe symptoms, with as many as 1 in every 250 affected. And the disease is two times more prevalent in Asian-American and Latina women than it is in Caucasian women. Women of Native American descent are also disproportionately affected.
The famous Lupus in Minorities: Nature Versus Nurture (LUMINA) study—a large multi-ethnic, multi-regional, and multi-institutional examination of lupus begun in 1993—found that genetic and ethnic factors are more important than socioeconomic ones in influencing disease activity. The study tracked death, damage, disability, and disease activity. The results also suggest that there are probably other genetic factors affecting the presentation of the disease in the African-American and Latino communities.
The researchers have published numerous papers reporting study findings on the relative contribution of genetic and socioeconomic factors on the course and outcome of lupus in Latinos, African Americans, and Caucasians.
LUMINA findings include:
- African-Americans and Latinas with lupus tend to develop the disease earlier in life, experience greater disease activity such as kidney problems, and, overall, have more complications than Caucasian patients.
- Latinas had a poorer prognosis overall than Caucasian women, were more likely to have kidney involvement and damage, and showed a more rapid rate of kidney failure.
- African-Americans have a higher frequency of neurological problems such as seizures, hemorrhage, and stroke.
- Latinas experience a higher level of cardiac disease.
If your child has systemic lupus erythematosus (S.L.E.), she is not alone. Of the more than 1.5 million Americans with this serious chronic illness, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 are diagnosed under the age of 18. In this age group, boys also get lupus. The scenario changes in adulthood, when females are far more susceptible.
Approximately 1 in 3 children with lupus have mild disease, but most have a moderate disease that may be severe at times, but usually responds well to treatment. With proper diagnosis and treatment only a small number of children develop severe and life-threatening lupus.
There is no single laboratory test that can prove a child has this complicated illness. Symptoms are often vague, and come and go over time. Because of these starts and stops lupus can be hard to diagnose at first and requires a careful physician to follow and treat it.
Although each case of Lupus is different, many of the symptoms are similar, such as:
- Swollen, stiff, and painful joints
- Low grade fever
- Extreme Fatigue
- 'Butterfly-Shaped Rash' (Malar Rash) that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Reacting or sensitivity to the sun
- Skin rash or lesions, especially after being in the sun
- Swelling around the ankles and fingers
- Chest pain with deep breaths
- Unusual hair loss
- Pale or purple fingers from cold or stress
- Mouth ulcers, often painless
- Severely dry eyes or mouth
- Bruising easily
See a Rheumatologist if you're experiencing any 3 or more of these symptoms for an extending amount of time. When you have lupus and experience several of these symptoms at the same time, for a prolonged amount of time, then you are having a 'flare', and should see your Rheumatologist.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Because lupus mimics so many other diseases, it's can be quite hard to diagnose. It's based on a combination of physical symptoms and laboratory tests, and for most people the journey to a definitive diagnosis is not an easy one shot deal. It usually happens over time where boils down to a simple matter of the doctors leaning more towards certainty that a person meets the criteria, or not.
As for treatment, once you have been diagnosed with lupus, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your age, symptoms, general health, and lifestyle. The goals of any treatment plan are to:
- reduce inflammation caused by lupus
- suppress your overactive immune system
- prevent flares, and treat them when they occur
- control symptoms like joint pain and fatigue
- minimize damage to organs
Interesting Facts About LUPUS:
- Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.
- Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot "catch" lupus from someone or "give" lupus to someone.
- Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
- Our research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
- It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
- Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too.
- Women of color are 2-3 times more likely to develop lupus.
- People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
- More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.