Lupus, also called Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Subacute cutaneous lupus or Discoid lupus is a chronic and serious autoimmune disorder where immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. It most commonly affects women.
It can affect almost any part of the body. Most commonly affected are skin, joints, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, lungs and brain.
It isn't contagious and it tend to run in families although science didn't find specific "lupus gene".
Sometimes illness is mild and do not cause much symptoms and sometimes it may be very severe even life threatening.
Since lupus is chronic condition it consists of remissions (condition without symptoms) and symptoms occurring periods known as "flares". These "flares" come and go and many patients are able to recognize when flare is coming. It can be triggered due to many conditions especially long sunlight exposure.
Causes of lupus are unknown although there are presumptions about combination of environmental, genetic and hormonal factors. It can also occur as reaction to some drugs.
There are many types of Lupus and symptoms are different for each one. The most common types include:
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) - most common form of lupus, usually affects joints, skin, kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, heart, blood, nervous system and brain. Most liable for developing SLE are people between 15 and 44 years.
Symptoms of SLE may include:
- Skin rashes especially due to sun exposure
- mouth or nose sores
- rash across the face in shape of butterfly wings
- pain in joints or swelling
- loss of weight
- loss of hair
- pain during deep breaths
- muscle pain
- pain in abdominal area
- inflammation of kidneys
- pale skin on fingers or toes
- memory problems and/or thinking problems
- blood clots
Discoid (diss-koid) lupus erythematosus (DLE) - include similar symptoms to SLE but the only difference is that DLE affects only skin, it can't make damage to organs although some people with DLE may later develop SLE.
Drug-induced lupus - occurs as reaction to some medicines and it may take a years after taking medicines before symptoms occur. Once symptoms occur they are similar ot SLE although it doesn't attack kidneys or central nervous system. Symptoms can last even for few months.
Neonatal lupus - is type of disease which can be spread from mother who has SLE or other immune system disorders to newborn baby. It can cause serious problems to baby's health including heart problems (can be treated with a peacemaker), skin rash or liver problems.
Since there is no particular test which would be able to give exact indication, sometimes it may be very hard to make diagnose and it is commonly misunderstood. There are some methods that can indicate to increased risk of lupus such as examination of medical history and symptoms, and laboratory test known as Antinuclear antibody test (ANA) although this test can be positive in cases of other diseases such as Malaria.
There is no known cure for this disease so treatments are based only on prevention of symptoms. Since lupus is inflammatory condition it can be treated with Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, can be used only in cases of mild SLE for reducing joint and muscle pain), Antimalarial drugs (used for treatment of joint pain, ulcers and rashes), Corticosteroid hormones (very powerful drugs used for reduction of inflammation, taken in small dosages due to frequent side effects), Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy (used only in serious cases of lupus when organs are seriously damaged).