Lupus is a form of an autoimmune disease where the healthy tissues of the body are being attacked by its own immune system. Lupus is also known as systemic lupus erythematosus that affects about 2 millions of Americans and the number continues to grow because there is no known cure for the disease. Living with the disease can definitely change the quality of life of the person affected, including that of their loved ones. Understanding the course of the disease is important to help the patient and their loved ones learn how to manage the situation better.
What causes lupus?
There are different factors being considered to contribute as risk factors for lupus, although there remains to be no definite known cause for the disease. Genetic and environmental factors are strongly associated to lupus. Genetic predisposition is high for the disease but the exact gene that causes lupus is not yet identified. Other potential areas being considered are hormonal causes because lupus is prevalent among women than men. Environmental triggers include smoking, stress, exposure to UV light like sunlight, chemical exposure and medications like antibiotics and penicillin.
What happens in lupus?
The body's immune system attacks the healthy cells. This is caused mainly by the failure of the antibodies to identify antigens that are harmful to the body like bacteria and viruses from the normal cells. As a result of the immune system attacking healthy cells and tissues, inflammation, swelling, pain and tissue damage occur. As a systemic disease, lupus can affect any organs of the body thereby causing more serious complications.
What are the symptoms of lupus?
The symptoms of lupus may with periods of flare and remission. The affected individuals also manifest different symptoms and the rate of severity can be mild, moderate or severe. In severe cases, major organs of the body like the heart, nervous system, lungs and blood may be involved. The symptoms of lupus can be debilitating as it can affect the person's activities of daily living. Swelling of the hands and feet are common when the kidney is involved, swollen and aching joints, fever, butterfly rash, extreme fatigue, anemia, skin lesion, chest pain, shortness of breath and hair loss are very common. In certain cases, blood clotting disorder also occurs, seizures, ulcers in the mouth or nose, bruising, depression, anxiety and headache.
Helping someone with lupus
If you or any of your loved ones have the disease, it is not easy to overcome the difficulties involved in the management of the condition. As a systemic disease more serious complications are expected from lupus. Getting an early diagnosis is important in order to obtain the proper treatment immediately. Lupus has no cure and the main objective of treatment is to relieve the symptoms and prevent complications. Commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of lupus are NSAIDs, anti-malarial drugs and corticosteroids. Living a healthy lifestyle can also help the body overcome some of the milder symptoms of lupus from occurring. This includes getting a regular exercise, avoiding smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, eating a balanced and healthy diet.
Receiving support from family and friends is also important when trying to deal with lupus. The affected individual will likely feel depressed and different because of their condition. Their condition requires lupus patients to make certain lifestyle choices that may not be normal and the people around them should understand their condition and offer them a support group.
Those with lupus can also reduce the extent of their symptoms by proper self care like applying a sunscreen to block the harmful UVA and UVB rays that exacerbate the symptoms like rashes. Foods that are low in sugar are also ideal in preventing the flares of symptoms.
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