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Lupus Autoimmune

About 63% of Americans never heard of lupus according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Still it affects about 1.5 million in the states. Described as unpredictable and misunderstood that’s Lupus the autoimmune disease.

Lupus is often referred to as “the great imitator” because its symptoms are mistaken for other conditions. It has a physical, emotional as well as economic impact. The disease affects people in different ways.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis. More details.

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Lupus can be mild for some and life threatening for others. Currently there is no cure and it is not contagious. Complications can happen if not treated.  However, with support it can be managed.

Important dates: May 10th World Lupus Day, May 21st Put on Purple, May is Lupus Awareness Month.

What is Lupus?

About 1.5 million in the United States live with this chronic autoimmune disease. This means your immune system attacks itself. For some reason it can’t tell the difference from pathogens (like bacteria and viruses) and your healthy tissue.

Lupus often affects your skin, joints and internal organs such as kidneys and heart. This presents as pain and inflammation in many areas of the body. When your immune system fights an infection or injury inflammation develops.

Most Common Lupus Symptoms

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pain or swelling of the joints
  • Swelling in your hands, feet or around the eyes
  • Low fever
  • Being sensitive to sunlight or fluorescent light
  • Chest pain with deep breaths
  • Memory issues

Lupus can also cause problems affecting skin and hair:

  • Rash on the cheeks and nose resembling a butterfly
  • Red rashes or scaly rashes
  • Hair loss or loss of scalp hair
  • Sores in the mouth (ulcers) or nose
  • Raynaud’s Disease
  • Eye diseases

The symptoms of lupus can come and go and change with time. Many of the symptoms are similar to arthritis and diabetes.

What Causes Lupus?

There is no known cause. However lupus, like other autoimmune diseases run in families. So it may be inheritied.

In addition experts think it may be due to specific hormones (estrogen) or environmental triggers. This is something external that brings on lupus symptoms or makes them worse (flares).

Diagnosing Lupus

Diagnosing lupus can be difficult. There is no single test for it. This requires medical attention along with lab test or imaging.

Making a lupus diagnosis could take months or even years. The disease itself may last for years or throughout one’s life. Your doctors will exam your symptoms, medical history, family history and lab test.

Lab test help your doctors with important information. This can hold clues to changes in your body like inflammation. Lupus is complicating thus making it a challenge to treat.

An early diagnosis and treatment by your rheumatologist are important. This specialist has additional training and experience concerning arthritis, lupus and other diseases involving joints, muscles and bones.

What Type of Tests Help Diagnose Lupus?

Blood Test

Blood tests are often given so doctors can see how your immune system is functioning. Along with any signs of inflammation you may have. These may include:

A Completed Blood Count (CBC)

This measures how many red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (help with blood clots) are in your blood.

Antibody Test

The antibody test shows if your immune system is going after healthy tissue.

Blood Clotting Time Test

This will show if there is a clotting issue.

Complement Test

The complement test looks for signs of inflammation.

Urine Test

Urine test are given to check your kidneys. This can be done once or repeated to look for changes.

Biopsies

Your doctor can take a small sample of tissue from different areas of your body, such as skin. The tissue can then be observed for signs of inflammation and damage with a microscope.

4 Types of Lupus

  1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) this is the most common form and can involve many organs. Anyone can have SLE but it is mostly seen in Black and Latino women 15 to 44 years of age.
  2. Cutaneous lupus (AKA skin lupus) is a form found on the skin.
  3. Drug-induced lupus can happen due to specific prescription drugs.
  4. Neonatal lupus is said to be rare and is passed on to the infants of women who have lupus.

Who is at Risk for Lupus?

All people can develop lupus but these groups are at higher risk.

  • Females 15 to 44 years of age
  • Specific racial or ethnic groups like African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Latino, Native American or Pacific Islander
  • If you have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease

How to Treat Lupus

Those with lupus can live long, happy lives with proper treatment. Goals of treatment are to manage existing symptoms, stop future flares and prevent damage to joints and organs. This can be done by finding techniques to calm your immune system.

It is important to visit your doctor regularly and follow the prescribed treatments. In addition making life changes can be used to manage the disease including:

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy diet
  • Enough rest
  • Stop smoking
  • Wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure

Some people may be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and chemotherapeutic agents. On the other hand there could be immune suppressive medication which reduces your immune response. Examples are:

  • Cyclosporine
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Azathioprine
  • Belimumab
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Chloroquine
  • Methotrexate

Steroids may also be given to modify or stimulate hormones, usually to reduce inflammation. But also for growth of tissue and repair.

Lupus Autoimmune
Photo by Leah Kelley from pexels

Lupus and Your Pregnancy

You are safe to get pregnant, have a normal pregnancy and healthy baby. But you are considered a “high risk pregnancy”. Meaning because you have lupus you are more prone to problems now. However this doesn’t mean things will happen.

It is important to keep your disease under control so there are no flares. But you need to plan for the pregnancy in advance before becoming pregnant.

Lupus has to be controlled or in remission 6 months before becoming pregnant.

When lupus is active and you become pregnant miscarriage, stillbirth or another serious condition could happen to you and baby.

If you have these conditions and lupus pregnancy is more risky.

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Kidney disease
  • History with preeclampsia

Along with those who had a stroke or a lupus flare that took place in the past six months.

Search for an obstetrician (specializes with pregnancy) having experience with high risk pregnancies. This doctor can work together with your primary doctor to manage your care.

Your Pregnancy Affecting Lupus

Being pregnant with lupus can cause pregnancy complications. There may be other issues that occur during your pregnancy.

Having flares while pregnant

Flares are more common in your first and second trimester and mostly mild. Some though need medicine right away and may cause you to go into labor. Always contact your doctor at that moment you have warning signs of a flare coming on.

Preeclampsia

Around two in ten who are pregnant with lupus get preeclampsia (extremely serious condition). A preeclampsia risk is high for those having lupus along with kidney disease. Getting this you may see sudden weight increase, swelling in hands and face, blurred vision, dizziness or stomach upset. This may cause a premature baby.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can also cause more risk. Make sure to keep your doctor appointments to find problems early so they can be treated. Managing lupus will keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.

What can you do?

•             Get involved

•             Participate in a walk or run

•             Become an advocate

•             Donate

•             Start a fundraiser

Wrapping it up

Lupus is a complicating autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans. Who are mainly women of childbearing age so you should be aware of pregnancy issues. It has been referred to as the great imitator.  

There are 4 types of lupus it has no known cause or cure. This makes it a challenge to diagnose. Diagnosis is done by a doctor and involves many tests.

Lupus can affect your skin, organs and muscles. Certain ethnic groups are at risk for lupus. It can be managed with life style changes and treatment.

I had an aunt on my mother’s side that had lupus.

Have you heard about lupus before?

Header Photo by Erik Karits from pexels

Mary
Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
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