Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect many parts of your body, including your skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs. Episodes tend to come and go throughout your life and may cause you to feel tired and achy. But with treatment and self-care, you can lead an active, healthy life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.4 million Americans, and the majority of them are women have this chronic disease. There are several types of lupus, but systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common and the type that causes the most difficulties. It can lead to problems ranging from kidney failure, swollen joints, fevers and to anemia.
Diagnosis and treatment of has improved tremendously in the past half-century. Although the disease isn’t curable, many treatment options such as medication and natural alternatives are available to help you cope with the symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Not everyone with lupus experiences the same signs and symptoms of the disease. In fact, your own symptoms may vary from time to time. Still, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with the disease. They include:
- Rash. A butterfly-shaped rash called a malar rash may appear across the bridge of your nose and cheeks. Or a scaly, disk-shaped rash called a discoid rash may appear on your face, neck or chest.
- Sensitivity to sunlight. People with lupus often experience severe rashes or sunburns after minimal sun exposure.
- Skin ulcers. Sores may appear on your tongue or inside your mouth or nose. These ulcers are usually painless.
- Arthritis. You may experience joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
Serositis. Inflammation of the lining of some organs such as the heart and lungs can cause you to have painful breathing, shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Kidney problems. You may have kidney problems such as inflammation. This can occur without any symptoms, or you may have leg swelling (edema) and high blood pressure.
- Brain or spinal cord problems. You may experience headaches, seizures or mental problems.
Additional signs and symptoms also may occur that are not specific to lupus. These include:
- Fatigue. This symptom may be accompanied by dizziness, headaches or depression.
- Fever. An unexplained fever may be an early sign of lupus.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is a condition in which your fingers, toes, nose and ears turn pale when exposed to cold temperatures.
- Chest pain. This pain may be accompanied by coughing.
- Swelling. You may have swollen glands or swelling in your legs or around your eyes.
- Digestive problems. These problems may include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and diarrhea.
- Unusual hair loss.
People with this disease may also experience depression or difficulty concentrating, either because of the disease or as a reaction to living with a chronic disease.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your body’s defenses attack your own tissues, resulting in inflammation. The cause is unknown, but doctors believe it results from a combination of factors, which may include heredity, environment and hormones. Although by itself can’t be inherited, it’s likely that inheriting a certain combination of genes makes you more susceptible to developing the condition. A viral or bacterial infection may then trigger the disease. Because so many more women than men have lupus, researchers are also looking at the possible involvement of hormones, such as estrogen.
Currently, there’s no cure. But treatments can ease symptoms and reduce complications. Treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus depends on which organs are affected and how severely. Because of the many forms, finding the most effective treatment may take time.
Your doctor may recommend a variety of medications, including the following:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Naprosyn) may reduce joint and other tissue inflammation.
Side Note: An announcement was made January 2004 amid concerns that led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch a campaign educating consumers about the potentially lethal side effects associated with the misuse of acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen. For more information on the FDA consumer education campaign, visit www.fda.gov/cder/drug/analgesics/. For additional educational insight about the harmful effect of NSAIDs and a product that is being recommended by physicians you can visit Serrapeptase vs Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS).
Antimalarial drugs. There’s no known relationship to malaria, and no one knows why antimalarial drugs help improve symptoms. These medications may be useful for treating skin and joint problems and inflammation of the surface of organs like your heart and lungs. These drugs may also prevent flares of the disease.
Corticosteroids. These drugs counter inflammation. The dosage depends on which organs are involved and how severely. Side effects of steroid use include weight gain, puffiness in your face, easy bruising, thinning of bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection.
Immunosuppressive medications. These drugs, such as azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar), reduce your normal immune response. Your doctor may prescribe them if your disease is widely affecting your organs, especially your kidneys. Other medications that may be used include methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Folex), chlorambucil (Leukeran), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) and mycophenolate (CellCept). Immuno-suppressive medications may cause anemia and a low white blood cell count. They may also increase risk of infection and cancer. Your doctor may prescribe them if corticosteroids aren’t effective or to permit a lower dosage of corticosteroids, to reduce side effects).
Sometimes, even with the use of immuno-suppressive drugs such as corticosteroids, your kidneys may fail. You may need kidney dialysis or, if kidney failure is permanent, a kidney transplant.
Below are two recommended links that provide documentation to what we believe to be safe and an effective alternative to ease the symptoms and reduce complications.
These links will redirect you to…