Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide. (1)
In this article, I will discuss what lupus is, its symptoms, causes, and possible solutions.
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation throughout the body.
Autoimmune diseases are a group of conditions in which one’s immune system goes into override; the body mistakes healthy cells for harmful foreign particles, and as a result, ends up attacking itself.
Some autoimmune conditions affect only certain organs, while others create inflammation all over the body.
Lupus affects the entire body, creating inflammation in various organs and tissues, including the:
Some people only experience a mild version of lupus, while others have more severe symptoms and consequences. Since lupus affects so many important organs, it can become severe and lead to permanent organ damage and even turn life-threatening.
Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans and about 5 million people worldwide. Most people develop it between ages 15 and 44. It mostly affects women and Caucasian women are 2-3 times more likely to have it than other ethnicities. Lupus is not contagious. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
What Are The Symptoms Of Lupus?
Symptoms of lupus can differ person to person and situation to situation. Symptoms often come in flares. (3, 5)
Symptoms of lupus may include:
- Joint pain
- Body aches
- Rashes, including a butterfly rash on the face
- Skin lesion
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Dry eyes
- Memory loss
What Causes Lupus?
The exact cause of lupus is currently unknown. It seems that lupus can be a result of the combination of the following areas (3, 5):
- Environment: Stress, smoking, and exposure to toxins can be potential causes of lupus.
- Genetics: Having a family history of lupus may increase your risks.
- Hormones: Abnormal hormone levels, especially increased estrogen, may increase the risk of lupus.
- Infections: Previous infections, including the Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and Hepatitis C have been linked to lupus.
- Medications: Certain medications, including hydralazine, procainamide, and quinidine may increase the risk of certain forms of lupus.
Types Of Lupus
Lupus has several types, including (3, 5):
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: This is the most common type that can range from mild to severe and can worsen over time, then improve again.
- Curaneous lupus: This type is mostly limited to the skin, causing rashes, lesions and scarring.
- DILE: This type develops due to long-term use of certain prescribed medication. Symptoms are similar to systemic lupus
- Neonatal lupus: This is a rare condition that affects infants whose mothers have lupus. Symptoms may include skin rash, low blood count, liver problems, or heart defects in newborns. In most cases, these symptoms go away after a few months.
Diagnosis Of Lupus
Diagnosis starts with a physical exam, health history, and understanding of your symptoms. Further diagnostic tools may involve (3, 5):
- Blood test: A complete blood count, erthrocyte seimentation rate, protein levels and anti-nuclear antibody test.
- Imaging: Chest x-ray and echocardiogram.
- Tissue biopsy: Sample from a lupus-like rash.
- Kidney biopsy: To check for kidney damage due to lupus.
Diagnosis is made based on the person’s symptoms and test results.
Is Lupus Curable?
Lupus currently has no cure, however, there are options to manage it or even experience remission. 80 to 90 percent of people with lupus reach a normal lifespan. (2, 4)
Treatment And Solutions For Lupus
Again, there is no cure for lupus. Your treatment plan may include medication, lifestyle changes, and dietary recommendations. (3, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Your doctor may recommend one or some of the following medications:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Antimalarial medication
- Immunesuppressive drugs
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle strategies, such as:
- Ultraviolet sunlight expose
- Avoiding direct sunlight
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Sleep 7-8 hours a day minimum
- Reduce stress (meditation, journaling, breathing and relaxation techniques, etc. are great tools)
- Exercise regularly, 20-30 minutes 5 days a week at least
Supplements your treatment team may recommend may include, but are not limited to:
- Fish oil
- Flax seed
- Vitamin B
To reduce inflammation and manage symptoms of lupus, it is essential to eat a healthy diet. Remove processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial ingredients. Aim to eat organic whenever possible. Eat an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet filled with greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and high-quality, free-range, organic animal products. Identifying food allergies and sensitivities and eating accordingly is crucial.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can a person die from lupus?
A. Someone cannot die directly from lupus, however, lupus can lead to serious organ damage that in some cases can result in death.
Q. Is having lupus serious?
A. While lupus is a serious autoimmune condition, with proper treatment, 80 -90% of patients can live a normal lifespan.
Q. What is the first sign of lupus?
A. The first signs of lupus may differ case by case, but usually, it involves joint pain and stiffness.
Q. Does lupus have a cure?
A. No, at this point lupus doesn’t have a cure, but it can be managed.
Q. Is lupus a disability?
A. It depends. Many people can live life avoiding disability through treatment and lifestyle. Lupus can also lead to serious damage to the body over time that may lead to disability in some cases.
Q. Is lupus like cancer?
A. No, lupus is not like and is not related to cancer.
Q. Is lupus like HIV?
A. No, lupus is not like and is not related to HIV.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in many important organs and tissues in the body. While lupus has no cure and can lead to serious organ damage, with proper treatment, lifestyle and dietary changes, it is possible to manage symptoms and reduce flares to live a fulfilling life.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments section.