An autoimmune disease, lupus is a condition where the immune system goes after healthy tissues, rather than fighting bacteria and viruses. Normally, the body produces proteins known as antibodies which protect and fight against illness; however lupus makes it hard for a body’s immune to classify between antigens and healthy cells and tissue. The end result creates inflammation, swelling, and pain. Parts within the body that are affected include: joints, skin, kidneys, the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and the brain.
Unfortunately, the causes associated with lupus are unknown;however research indicates that genetics seem to play an underlying role. Anyone can get the condition; however women seem to be more susceptible, with African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American females at an increased risk. There are four types of lupus, with the most common being systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Cutaneous, drug-induced lupus, and neonatal are other forms of this condition.
Symptoms for lupus include:
- Pain and swelling in joints, most often the wrists, hands, feet, elbows, knees, and ankles.
- Muscle pain.
- Low-grade fever (100 degrees, or higher), with unknown cause.
- Red rashes, mostly on the face – but can be prevalenton the arms, hands, neck or back.
- An individual’s skin bruises easily.
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath, often sufferers complain about shortness in breath.
- Hair loss.
- Pale/purple fingers or toes, especially when cold.
- Sensitivity to the sun, as well as light in general.
- Swelling in legs and hands.
- Ulcers in and around the mouth and nose area.
- Fatigue that simply won’t go away.
- Dizziness and headaches.
- Depression and confusion.
- Memory loss.
The effects of these symptoms vary from individual to individual, and the disease differs so widely from each person who experiences it. While they may be mild for some people, other sufferers of lupus can describe severe and painful symptoms. The signs of lupus also can come in waves, referred to as flares, appearing and disappearing within periods of time. While some maybe temporary, other signs can remain permanent; with new symptoms popping up after a while. As symptoms are not consistent between lupus sufferers, there are multiple tests to confirm diagnosis. Sadly, there is no cure for this disease; however diagnosis and medication, as well as a healthy lifestyle that includes proper rest, exercise, and a well-balanced diet can help those with lupus keep symptoms at bay. This is why, as with many other conditions, getting diagnosed early on will help an individual battle this disease, and prevent future complications. As the condition looks so different from each person, dosages and medical treatments vary.