Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans and an estimated 5 million people world wide. Lupus damages parts of the body such as the skin, joints and muscles. Similar to other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system no longer recognizes the difference between itself and foreign invaders and begins to produce antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. This attack can cause pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles making simple daily tasks a challenge. The complications associated with lupus are known as flare ups since they often go through periods of remission and then surface or flare up again.

Effecting primarily women, lupus is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 44 and is more prevalent in ethnic groups such as African Americans, Asians and Latinos. Each year 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported and those diagnosed can have normal lives with effective treatment.


Causes

At this time the exact cause of lupus is unknown, but research suggests that genetics and environmental factors play a significant role in the disease. No single gene has been identified to cause lupus but because it tends to appear in families, scientist think there is a genetic connection. The environment also plays a role in lupus as certain environmental factors tend to trigger a flare up.

Some of these factors include:
• Exposure to ultra violet rays
• Certain antibiotic drugs
• Infection
• Exhaustion
• Stress on the body such as surgery
• Pregnancy or physical harm.




Symptoms

Lupus is commonly referred to as the “Great Imitator” since many of its symptoms resemble those of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lyme Disease, diabetes or fibromyalgia.

Common symptoms of Lupus include:
• Extreme fatigue
• Headache
• Painful or swollen joints
• Fever
• Sensitivity to light
• Hair loss
• Anemia
• swelling in the feet
• Lets or hands
• Butterfly shaped rash on face that covers the cheeks and nose

Diagnosis

There is no single diagnostic test for lupus. Because the disease mimics other illnesses and the symptoms come and go diagnosis can be difficult and consists of reviewing several factors including:
• Current symptoms
• Lab test results
• Medical history
• Medical history of your immediate family

Treatment

Once diagnosed with lupus, a patient will usually be treated by a rheumatologist, a doctor that specializes in joints and muscles. Treatment is tailored to the specific patient taking into account their age, symptoms, lifestyle and overall health. The goal of all lupus treatments is to reduce inflammation, suppress the overactive immune system, prevent flare ups and to minimize damage to the organs