What Should I Know About Lupus?

Although there are many questions regarding Lupus and exactly how it is contracted, it is sad to say there are not as many concrete answers. Lupus currently affects over 1.5 million Americans of all races, ages, and sex and affects a total of over 5 million people worldwide. The causes of Lupus are unknown and while there is extensive research being done, there has not been a FDA approved treatment for over 50 years. This is more than likely due to the fact that most medication used for Lupus is actually harmful to the other parts of the body, causing just as much harm as good. Below we will discuss what Lupus is, where it is most common, and what can currently be done to diagnose and treat it.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects how your body defends itself. For example, when you are sick with the cold or maybe the flu, your body creates antibodies that would typically fight these viruses, bacteria, or germs. However, with Lupus your antibodies are confused and can not tell the difference between the germs and your healthy tissue. In the end, your body’s defense system actually attacks itself while destroying your skin, bones, and organs. Your body reacts to Lupus as it comes and go’s. Meaning, when the disease flares you will notice and feel pain while you feel nothing if the disease is in remission.

There are 4 known forms of this disease with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus being the most common. This form of Lupus can lead to a heart attack, inflammation in your brain and nervous system, and in your brains blood vessels. Not to mention that it can put you on dialysis, which is a very, very expensive machine that replaces your kidneys and filters out the waste from your blood. This is of course just shy of having to have a kidney transplant. Another form is Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus which is version of Lupus devoted to your skin. This can cause all kinds of rashes all over your body. Approximately 10% of people with this form of Lupus will generally develop Systemic Lupus. Others will have Systemic Lupus just have the skin rash as their main symptom. Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus is a prescription drug induced form of Lupus which is found more commonly in men, as men are the most common to take prescriptions for tuberculosis and blood pressure. Not everyone that takes these medications will have symptoms and this form of Lupus will typically go away after being off the medication for some time. And last, Neonatal Lupus affects infants in the womb of mothers who have Lupus. If detected early enough it is possible for the infants to be born with this disease.

Where is Lupus Most Common?

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Although Lupus does not target any specific gender, race, or age, it does occur more commonly in women between the ages of 15-44 years old. Women also make up 90% of the population who have the disease. Lupus appears more in people of color such as African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Family history plays a small roll as well with relatives of those with Lupus having a 5-13% chance of developing the disease. An interesting fact is that a child of a mother with Lupus only has a 5% chance of developing Lupus.

How to Diagnose and Treat Lupus

Lupus is a very difficult disease to diagnose as it is known as “the great imitator.” Many symptoms include headaches, fever, swollen joints, and fatigue which are common in many sicknesses. More uncommon everyday symptoms are chest pains or difficulty breathing, abnormal blood clotting, and anemia. Since diagnosing can not be determined from your lab results alone, they are also used with your medical history, family medical history, and current symptoms. It is also frustrating due to the fact that tests can often come back as negative once, then ran again and proven positive.

If at all possible it is important to be prepared to speak to your doctor if you are having any symptoms of Lupus or any other sickness. Since it is difficult to diagnose, you will be more than likely asked many questions and your answers should be as specific as possible. Try to remember what triggers your pain, when it started, possible rememdies if any, and if it has been getting better or worse. Knowing these things can speed up the process of your diagnoses.

It is important to understand that there is no cure for Lupus. There are many other remedies that can lessen the everyday pain however very few are approved by the FDA. Most medications are along the lines of steroids which are used to reduce swelling. Your doctor can also provide you with a daily regimine according to your age, symptoms, and life style. It is not uncommon for your medication to change over the course of your lifetime or take a while to find the correct mix of medications to bring your Lupus under controll.

Whether you have Lupus or not, it is important to know that Lupus is not a curable disease although many are putting in the effort and funds necessary to find a cure one day. If you or someone you know has Lupus, it is not contagious and can not be “given” or contracted from anyone including from sexual contact. With the correct medical care it is very possible for most people to live a long life.

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