Lupus: A Systemic Autoimmune Disease

What Is Lupus?

Lupus Article

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system begins attacking its own tissue and organs. It is considered systemic because it affects nearly all the systems in the body, from the skin to the digestive system. The progression and prognosis of lupus is unpredictable, as it usually has long-periods or remission and random flare-ups.

Causes

The exact cause of lupus is unknown, though many believe it to be genetic. It has also been linked to certain environmental factors like excessive sunlight. There have also been reported instances of lupus being brought on by the use of certain medications.

Types of Lupus

Lupus

“Butterfly Rash” associated with lupus

There are four different types of lupus, categorized by the body systems they affect.

Systemic lupus erythematosus

This is the most common type of lupus. The onset of symptoms usually occurs between 15 and 45 years old, and are very wide-ranging because they affect every system in the body.

Discoid lupus erythematosus

This type of lupus primarily affects the skin, resulting in a rash on the face, neck and ears.

Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus

This type of lupus is caused by excessive sun exposure and results in open sores on the akin that has been exposed to the sun.

Neonatal lupus

Neonatal lupus is present at birth and the primary symptom is a widespread rash on the infant’s skin.

Symptoms

Since lupus affects every system in the body, it can present with a wide-range of systems including, but not limited to the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Rashes and Skin Irritation
  • Butterfly-Shaped Rash on the Face
  • Fever
  • Joint Pain
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Headaches
  • Memory Loss
  • Confusion
  • Dry Eyes
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon – Fingers and Toes Turning White In The Cold
  • Urinary Issues
  • Abdominal Pain

Diagnosis

Lupus testing

Chest x-rays are used to assess for lung inflammation, a complication of lupus.

Diagnosing lupus can be difficult because of the wide-ranging symptoms. It is often misdiagnosed as other conditions before ultimately being diagnosed as lupus. Initial testing includes blood panels such as a CBC, kidney and liver assessments and erythrocyte sedimentation rates. These levels check how well the kidney and liver are functioning. In a lupus patient, these organs are not at optimal functioning.

Other diagnostics include chest x-rays to check for lung inflammation and an echocardiogram to check for heart valve issues.

Treatment

There is no cure for lupus, but its many symptoms can be regulated with medications and lifetstyle changes. Patients will want to avoid things like drugs and alcohol, as well as any environmental factors that trigger flare-ups. If left untreated, lupus can lead to serious complications like kidney failure, anemia, cardiovascular disease, lung inflammation and even stroke.

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