What exactly is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of your body, including your skin, joints or organs Resident or download.

With lupus, your body experiences autoimmunity. This means that your immune system becomes confused and can’t tell the difference between your body’s healthy tissues and “foreign invaders” like viruses, bacteria and germs.

As a result, the immune system attacks the healthy tissues and organs, which harms your body in different ways. It may cause inflammation, pain and damage to different parts of the body.

Lupus ranges from mild to life-threatening and if treated, most people can live a full life. Lupus is known as the “great imitator” because it mimics other conditions. Symptoms vary for different people and often come and go, which makes it difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms of lupus include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Rashes on the body
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

Causes of lupus

The immune system going out of whack and causing lupus is thanks to a combination of different factors including the environment and your genetics. The good news is that lupus isn’t contagious and you can’t “catch” lupus from anyone.

Risk factors

Sunlight
Being overly exposed to the sun may cause lupus skin lesions.

Infections
An infection may initiate symptoms of lupus.

Medication
Lupus can be triggered by certain blood pressure medication, antibiotics and seizure medication.

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Your sex
Lupus is more common in women.

Age
People of all ages are at risk for lupus, but it’s mainly diagnosed in people aged 15 to 45.

Race
Lupus is common in Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Genes
The genes you inherit and your family’s history with autoimmune diseases may increase the risk of developing lupus.

Treating and managing lupus

Although there isn’t a cure for lupus, you can treat and manage the condition. Doctors will prescribe medication to help treat lupus. This medication aims to reduce the inflammation caused by the condition, prevent flares and treat them when they happen. They also help to minimise the damage to your organs and suppress your overactive immune system as far as possible.

Medications

NSAIDS
Includes over-the-counter drugs which are used to treat pain.

Immunosuppressants
Helps to suppress the immune system.

Rituxan
Helps to ease symptoms in serious cases of lupus.

As lupus symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases, treatment may also include:

  • Diuretics for fluid retention.
  • Antihypertensive drugs to treat high blood pressure.
  • Antibiotics for any infections.

Good to know
Before undergoing treatment, talk to your doctor about your signs and symptoms. This will determine which medication is going to help you the most. As lupus symptoms come and go, your doctor may change your treatment and dosages over time.

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