Lupus is a disease of the immune system, wherein the body’s own immune system attacks organs and tissues. Resulting inflammation can cause a wide variety of complications. These may affect the joints, kidneys, skin, blood cells, heart, lungs and brain.
Lupus is a disease some people are born with vulnerability to, which is then triggered into activity through an infection, from particular drugs or even light from the sun. There is no cure for this disease but treatment controls symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Signs and symptoms of lupus vary widely from person to person, as they depend upon which of your body systems are affected by the illness. Signs and symptoms which are most common include the following:
- Frequent fever and fatigue
- Joint problems, including swelling, stiffness and pain
- Rash on the face in the shape of a butterfly, across the bridge of the nose and onto the cheeks
- Photosensitivity causing skin lesions
- Raynaud’s phenomenon, where fingers and toes turn blue during stress or as exposed to cold
- Shortness of breath
- Dry eyes
- Chest pain
- Headaches, memory problems and confusion
If your disease has not yet been clearly diagnosed, your doctor will use a combination of tests, exam findings and experienced signs and symptoms to help arrive at a diagnosis. Lupus is difficult to pinpoint, because there are such variances in signs and symptoms between patients. Even within one person, lupus can change and vary significantly over time.
To diagnose lupus, blood and urine tests will be taken. These tests may include:
- Complete blood count, known as a CBC: Measuring red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells, this test will also assess hemoglobin amount.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate: This test gauges how quickly red blood cells settle in the bottom of a tube within an hour. Systemic diseases like lupus are indicated by a faster settle rate. This is not foolproof, however, as other diseases can result in the same rapid settle rates.
- Kidney and liver assessment: To determine if your kidneys and liver are functioning well, this tests will be provided. Lupus can damage both kidneys and the liver.
- Urinalysis: Increased levels of protein or red blood cells in your urine may indicate lupus has affected your kidneys.
- Antinuclear antibody test (ANA): ANA antibodies are produced by the immune system. Most people with a positive, elevated presence of these antibodies will not have lupus, but the disease is indicated by an elevated level. A positive result will be used with other test results, exams and methods to determine if you have lupus.
Other tests provided to determine if you may have lupus include imaging tests. These look at the heart and lungs, to see if lupus is affecting those organs. Imaging tests lupus patients receive may include:
- Echocardiogram: Sound waves provide imaging of heartbeat. This can show valve damage and other heart problems.
- Chest X-Rays: Chest x-rays can indicate fluid or inflammation in the lungs.
Because lupus can damage the kidneys in a multitude of ways, the type and extent of damage may affect the type of treatment provided. To determine associated damage, taking a test sample of kidney tissue through biopsy may be done.
Top 10 Treatments for Lupus
Once your lupus is confirmed and diagnosed, some treatment may begin. Your particular signs and symptoms will determine how your lupus is treated and what treatment methods are used. Medications play a large role in treatment of the disease, as does lifestyle. Symptoms tend to flare and subside, often making treatment methods change within each patient.
The top ten treatments for lupus include four primary types of medications and six lifestyle changes.
Four Medications for Treatment of Lupus Signs and Symptoms:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Common NSAIDs are naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, and others. These are used to treat pain, fever and swelling often associated with the disease. Your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs if over-the-counter versions do not work well for you. Side effects of NSAIDs can include heart problems, bleeding in the stomach and kidney problems.
- Antimalarial drugs.
Antimalarial drugs used to treat lupus include hydroxychloroquine and other medications. These can help control the disease and only provide minor side effects. Side effects experienced by users may include stomach upset and, in very rare instances, retinal damage in the eye.
To reverse inflammation of lupus, corticosteroids may be prescribed. These medications can cause long-term side effects. Those effects include bruising easily, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes and greater risk of infection. The higher dosage of corticosteroids taken, the greater risk of associated side effects.
Some patients with more serious cases of lupus can be helped through suppression of their immune system. Immunosuppressants include azathioprine, mycophenolate, leflunomide, belimumab and methotrexate. These do cause some significant side effects, including infection, fertility problems, cancer risk and liver damage. Belimumab causes less severe side effects, including nausea, fever and diarrhea.
Six Lifestyle and Home Remedies as Treatment for Lupus
- Regular doctor visits.
By seeing your doctor with regularity, he or she will be able to help you avoid flare-ups, instead of just providing treatment when they occur.
- Sufficient sleep.
People with lupus suffer from persistent fatigue. While rest does not necessarily help this type of fatigue, getting enough sleep each night and taking rest breaks as needed will help sustain energy.
- Avoid extreme sunlight.
Ultraviolet light triggers lupus flare ups for many patients. To avoid these problems, use SPF 55 or greater sunscreen when outside and cover your body with a hat, long sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Exercise with regularity.
By regularly exercising, flares are more easily recovered from, than when your body is out of shape. This also helps reduce heart attack risk, fights depression and improves general well-being.
- Quit smoking.
Smoking causes cardiovascular disease and intensifies the effects of lupus on your body, especially on the heart and blood vessels.
- Maintain nutritional balance.
By eating healthy, you will feel better and your body will fight flare-ups more effectively. Ensure fruits, vegetables and whole grains are included within daily food consumption. Avoid negative foods which cause high blood pressure, kidney problems or intestinal issues.