Lupus Symptoms and Treatment Options

by Editorial Board on April 28, 2011 · 1 comment

in Immune System

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that if you have lupus your immune system attacks your own organs and tissues. This attack results in inflammation and damage to your joints, skin, kidneys, heart, brain, lungs, and/or blood cells.

Lupus Symptoms

Most people with lupus have mild symptoms with periodic flare-ups (when symptoms get worse for a time.) The symptoms of lupus depend on the tissues and organs that are affected, and tend to come and go, with different symptoms occurring during the course of the disease.

The most common symptoms of lupus include:

Extreme fatigue

Fever

Weight change

Joint pain and swelling

Depression

Anxiety

Memory loss

Hair loss

Abnormal blood clotting

Ulcers in the mouth or nose

Butterfly-shaped rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose

Anemia

Fingers and toes that turn white in the cold, easy bruising

Skin lesions that get worse with exposure to sun

Many of the symptoms of lupus are also symptoms of other diseases, such as blood disorders, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Lyme disease, thyroid problems, and several heart, lung, and muscle diseases.

Occurrence and Causes

Lupus is more common in women than men and more common in Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians than Caucasians. While it can affect people of all ages, it is most commonly diagnosed in people between 15 and 40 years old. As with most autoimmune diseases the causes of lupus are not known. Factors that may increase the risk of getting lupus include certain prescription medicines, sunlight, Epstein-Barr virus, and exposure to certain chemicals.

Diagnosis

Because signs and symptoms come and go and vary so much from person to person, lupus is difficult to diagnose. The American College of Rheumatology has 11 criteria for diagnosing lupus. Doctors may also use blood tests to help with diagnosis.  Typically a rheumatologist, a specialist, will be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of someone with Lupus.

Treatment of Lupus

Treatment for lupus depends on the type, location, and severity of symptoms. While some recommended medications are sold over the counter, it’s important for people with lupus to discuss any medication with their doctors before taking them. That’s because they could cause unwanted side effects, especially for pregnant and nursing women.

Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can reduce symptoms. Some people with lupus get relief from anti malaria drugs. Corticosteroids can also lessen lupus-related inflammation, but they can have serious side effects, especially at the higher doses used to treat cases that are life threatening.

Researchers continue to conduct clinical trials to find more effective treatments for lupus. For example, the National Institutes for Health has reported on the possibility of using Omega-3 fatty acids to treat lupus. Also, it’s been shown that lifestyle changes like exercise and appropriate rest can help people with lupus.

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